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Monday, June 14, 2010

Fundamental cosmological measure errors: dark matter and energy may not be after all

I laughed and sighed when I read this. I have never been really happy about the alleged existence of matter that cannot be detected nor energy that has no known source. However for the last decade or two, cosmologists have been pushed into these enigmatic hypothetical features by what they believed to be the hard facts of cosmological measures, particularly those of the cosmic background radiation.

Now astronomers from the British Royal Astronomical Society, Utane Sangawit and Tom Shanks, have found that these measures were incorrect after all, and very much so. While the data is still insufficient, it is possible that we can in then scrap the mysterious dark side of the Universe off the equations needed to explain it.

According to Sangawit:

If our result is repeated in new surveys of galaxies in the Southern Hemisphere then this could mean real problems for the existence of dark energy.

More information at the RAS (found via SD).


terryt said...

"I have never been really happy about the alleged existence of matter that cannot be detected nor energy that has no known source".

Nor have I. However I certainly don't know enough about the physics to be able to form a valid opinion for myself. I've always thought there must be some other explanation for the observed results.

eurologist said...

Maju and Terry,

Even the author states: Odds are that the standard model with its enigmatic dark energy and dark matter will survive - but more tests are needed

The fact is that the statistical methods they used are much more difficult and inconclusive than all the other direct methods that lead to the conclusion of dark matter and dark energy.*

The existence of which, by the way may make people uncomfortable, but we should keep in mind that both terms are nothing more than placeholders: descriptors that roughly describe the physical effects seen, but don't really explain what is causing them - because we don't know, yet.

(*) Pretty much the study of any larger collection of astronomical objects shows that their orbits can only be explained if something modifies the gravitational pull. And the simplest explanation, and so far also the only one accurate over all scales, is that additional material exists that does not (significantly) interact with conventional matter except via gravity. The existence of this material in computer simulations also creates the type of clumping that leads to the observed structure in the universe. Finally, studies using relativistic light bending effects also confirm its existence exactly where you would expect, even in dynamic systems (e.g., galaxy collisions).

Similarly, several independent studies demonstrate the acceleration of cosmic expansion. Again, the simplest explanation that describes all observations very well is a term like Einstein's cosmological constant in the field equations. It basically means that when "new space is created" during expansion, that space itself has a (vacuum) energy density. That in itself is not really surprising, since space "must know" a lot to behave as it does.

Maju said...

Fair enough, Eurologist. I appreciate your knowledgeable input. Still, if measures are wrong, and it seems that they may be, the model is likely to be wrong as well (unless they got it right by a mere fluke, what is most unlikely).

We'll see. It took more than a decade for dark matter and dark energy to become mainstream, I would not expect scientific research to evolve much faster now.

One real problem I have with dark matter in particular is that all descriptions I have read of it, say it's not really matter in the conventional sense but they are forced to imagine unusual states of matter such as WIMPs, which, oddly enough, would be many times the mass of observable matter.

Dark matter (and dark energy) may be real, who knows?, but they are much like "here there be dragons", not a valid answer but actually another problem and a problem of such huge dimensions that may clearly challenge all our understanding of the Universe as it used to be up to the 1990s.

The "Dark Problem" could, in my opinion humble, even challenge the existence of the Big Bang as such, as well as all known physics, including Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. So it's perfectly understandable that we breath alleviated if the Dark Problem can, after all, be removed by virtue of a mere fatal error in data.

Maybe it's not that simple but in any case, it does seem like all the figures and equations need to be revised now.

We'll see what this results in in the end.