The last post


The dark energy controversy is unresolved, and will likely continue to be unresolved for a long while yet. While cosmologists do use the ΛCDM model to fit WMAP (cosmic microwave background probe) and SDSS/2dFGRS (galaxy redshift surveys) data, sometimes they vary the ‘cosmological equation of state’ parameter (w), which should be set at -1 for a cosmological constant; w=-1 fits better, but many papers concede that it’s just not possible yet to detect quintessence.

We’re at a stage where plenty of papers are coming out, whether fitting observational data to the ΛCDM model, reviewing the situation, presenting a new hypothesis or a new analysis, supporting quintessence or the cosmological constant or another theoretical alternative, discussing consequences for the fate of the universe with certain models… but the cosmological constant is still the best we’ve got as far as observations go. Some (few?) scientists simply accept this, but I have to agree with Rocky Kolb:

It would be a mistake to be satisfied with the cosmological constant just because it’s a simple explanation.

However, a possible new controversy may be rearing its head, this one over interpretations from cosmological probes (I read this somewhere about WMAP). If the interpretations aren’t correct, this could have severe implications for dark energy as a cosmological constant.

It seems to be that the dark energy controversy is just one of those things where the more you know, the more you realise just how little you know. Perhaps much of ‘normal science’ (Kuhn) is like this.

What we do know, though, is how important dark energy is as a puzzle: it will tell us the fate of our universe, it will allow us to understand our cosmos, and it will also add to our fundamental understanding of physics; it may even lead to a grand unified theory of general relativity and quantum mechanics. I assume that’s why dark energy now tops observational astrophysics priorities; they want this controversy, this crazy puzzle, solved ASAP.


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