So I'm a couple hours late with this week's half-assed Monday "Morning" Science Corner, but I figure I have a good excuse, as today's post incorporates a subject considered to be "breaking news" on the frontier of science--confirmation of the much-hypothesized existence of so-called DARK ENERGY.
What is "dark energy"? Good question, and one that NASA.gov answers as such: "More is unknown than is known. We know how much dark energy there is because we know how it affects the Universe's expansion. Other than that, it is a complete mystery. But it is an important mystery. It turns out that roughly 70% of the Universe is dark energy. Dark matter makes up about 25%. The rest - everything on Earth, everything ever observed with all of our instruments, all normal matter - adds up to less than 5% of the Universe. Come to think of it, maybe it shouldn't be called "normal" matter at all, since it is such a small fraction of the Universe.
One explanation for dark energy is that it is a property of space. Albert Einstein was the first person to realize that empty space is not nothing. Space has amazing properties, many of which are just beginning to be understood. The first property that Einstein discovered is that it is possible for more space to come into existence. Then one version of Einstein's gravity theory, the version that contains a cosmological constant, makes a second prediction: "empty space" can possess its own energy. Because this energy is a property of space itself, it would not be diluted as space expands. As more space comes into existence, more of this energy-of-space would appear. As a result, this form of energy would cause the Universe to expand faster and faster. Unfortunately, no one understands why the cosmological constant should even be there, much less why it would have exactly the right value to cause the observed acceleration of the Universe.
Another explanation for how space acquires energy comes from the quantum theory of matter. In this theory, "empty space" is actually full of temporary ("virtual") particles that continually form and then disappear. But when physicists tried to calculate how much energy this would give empty space, the answer came out wrong - wrong by a lot. The number came out 10x120 times too big. That's a 1 with 120 zeros after it. It's hard to get an answer that bad. So the mystery continues."
Great, NASA. Thanks for answering that so clearly and succinctly.
Bottom line, no one knows what "dark energy" is. But it most likely makes up about 70% of the known Universe and, as of today, it has been confirmed as (relatively) REAL. Hm.
From MSN Space:
A census of 200,000 galaxies may confirm that the mysterious force of dark energy is what is pulling the universe apart at ever-increasing speeds, a new study finds.
The results of the five-year galactic survey offer new support for the favored theory of how elusive dark energy works — as a constant force, uniformly affecting the universe and driving its runaway expansion.
The new findings contradict an alternate theory that gravity, and not dark energy, is the force pushing space apart and causing it to expand. That alternate theory challenges Albert Einstein's concept of gravity, because it has gravity acting at great distances as a repulsive force rather than an attractive one.
An unsolved mystery
Dark energy has long been an unexplainable force, and the theory of its existence remains unproven, but the results of this new study could provide independent confirmation that it is behind the strange way that galaxies are being pulled from one another, against the tug of gravity.
"The action of dark energy is as if you threw a ball up in the air, and it kept speeding upward into the sky faster and faster," said Chris Blake of the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia. Blake is lead author of two papers on the study appearing in an upcoming issue of the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
"The results tell us that dark energy is a cosmological constant, as Einstein proposed," Blake said in a statement. "If gravity were the culprit, then we wouldn't be seeing these constant effects of dark energy throughout time."
So is it a vindication for Einstein or a negation of his theories? Tough call, but I prefer the latter interpretation. I think it's pretty safe in this day and age to call out Einstein as the hack that he truly was, and maybe call bullshit on that punk-ass Stephen Hawking while we're here, too.
EINSTEIN: "God does not play dice."
"I PLAY HELLA DICE, SON. NOW BACK UP AND LEMME ROLL THESE HERE BONES.
PEACE OUT KID. WORD TO HAROLD CAMPING, I'LL CATCH ALL Y'ALL NINJAS BACK HERE ON OCTOBER 21st, AIGHT?"
- from "The Bible"
It's true, man. Einstein was a fucking windbag. Anyone claiming to know quote unquote GOD's proclivities--whether in regard to the nature of gravity and the Universe or "His" grand Doomsday Scheme--can suck one. "God" is a crutch and Albert Einstein is Harold Camping. This much I'm sure we can all agree on.
Sorry to get all REAL on you guys, but it's been a long week filled with a bit too much Christian dogma and not enough sleep. I'm fucking calling EVERYONE OUT, not just dead guys and dudes in wheelchairs.
- CRUD WIZARD: You're a punk-ass ho, and next time I see you away from your bodyguard/"dad", it's ON.
- JAIME FROM THE LIVING DOORWAY: You're a ho-ass punk, don't think I don't notice you biting Ira Glass' style. You fake, homie. I'm taking you DOWN.
- WRESTLEMANIA 7: 25% of participants dead? Something shady is going on, and I intend to get to the bottom of it. Watch your back, Wrestlemania 7.
- THOR the movie: Obvious reasons.
So DARK ENERGY is a reality. And probably the new name for about a dozen new Italian power metal bands. Fair enough. But how much of the Universe is actually made up of Weird Dude Energy?
Answer me THAT, Science.