Focus: Dark Energy

05Oct10

I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog writing about scientific controversy theory, how it relates to modern Big Bang cosmology in general, and small aspects of the overall cosmic controversy, without going into too much detail about the specific controversy.

Cosmology is a huge subject, and as it’s based on observation, it has the tendency to be controversial (see this post). But with so many observations, so many ideas for and against the Big Bang theory in all its incarnations, it’s too much to cover as one enormous controversy!  As such, I will be focussing on one topic within it; dark energy.

What is dark energy?

It’s a negative energy, a negative pressure, making up 73% of our Universe (by last count) and causing the universe to accelerate. (As opposed to dark matter, which is matter that isn’t baryonic matter like us; dark matter makes up 23% of the Universe and baryonic matter and neutrinos make up the tiny rest.)

Why is it a controversy?

For a few reasons, all of which I will be writing about… on the surface, it’s uncomfortable to have such a large proportion of the Universe ‘dark’. The cosmological constant, which cosmologists use to describe dark energy (which is one aspect of this controversy), was introduced by Einstein as a ‘fudge factor’ in general relativity. However, even Einstein was not a fan of the cosmological constant (Kragh, H. (1996) Cosmology and Controversy. Princeton University Press, Princeton.):

 Since I introduced this term, I had always a bad conscience. . .. I am unable to believe that such an ugly thing should be realised in nature.

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