March 31st, 2017

Dark energy may not exist

I try to follow the general outlines of the current theories of theoretical physics, but it goes without saying that I don’t understand the math, and that I miss a lot of the details. So although I’d never even heard of “dark energy” before (antimatter yes; dark matter yes—and I think I had lumped dark matter and dark energy together), I’m interested in a report that calls into question the existence of dark energy:

According to the new study from Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary and the University of Hawaii, the discrepancy that dark energy was “invented” to fill might have arisen from the parts of the theory that were glossed over for the sake of simplicity. The researchers set up a computer simulation of how the universe formed, based on its large-scale structure. That structure apparently takes the form of “foam,” where galaxies are found on the thin walls of each bubble, but large pockets in the middle are mostly devoid of both normal and dark matter.

The team simulated how gravity would affect matter in this structure and found that, rather than the universe expanding in a smooth, uniform manner, different parts of it would expand at different rates. Importantly, though, the overall average rate of expansion is still consistent with observations, and points to accelerated expansion. The end result is what the team calls the Avera model.

“The theory of general relativity is fundamental in understanding the way the universe evolves,” says Dobos. “We do not question its validity; we question the validity of the approximate solutions. Our findings rely on a mathematical conjecture which permits the differential expansion of space, consistent with general relativity, and they show how the formation of complex structures of matter affects the expansion. These issues were previously swept under the rug but taking them into account can explain the acceleration without the need for dark energy.”

There’s so much we don’t know, and although it’s fascinating to speculate I doubt we will ever know enough to truly understand the universe’s formation in the scientific sense. As a very young child I was taken with such questions and even dared to dream that I might enter the field of cosmology myself. I was good at math and science, but not that surpassingly good, as I realized some time late in my high school or early in my college career. I am in awe of those who can do this at a high level, though, and follow their work as best I can.

As for dark matter and dark energy, I’ll leave it for now with a nod to the poets

Go to the western gate, Luke Havergal,
There where the vines cling crimson on the wall,
And in the twilight wait for what will come.
The leaves will whisper there of her, and some,
Like flying words, will strike you as they fall;
But go, and if you listen she will call.
Go to the western gate, Luke Havergal—
Luke Havergal.

No, there is not a dawn in eastern skies
To rift the fiery night that’s in your eyes;
But there, where western glooms are gathering,
The dark will end the dark, if anything:
God slays Himself with every leaf that flies,
And hell is more than half of paradise.
No, there is not a dawn in eastern skies—
In eastern skies…


The End Of The World

Quite unexpectedly, as Vasserot
The armless ambidextrian was lighting
A match between his great and second toe,
And Ralph the lion was engaged in biting
The neck of Madame Sossman while the drum
Pointed, and Teeny was about to cough
In waltz-time swinging Jocko by the thumb
Quite unexpectedly to top blew off:

And there, there overhead, there, there hung over
Those thousands of white faces, those dazed eyes,
There in the starless dark, the poise, the hover,
There with vast wings across the cancelled skies,
There in the sudden blackness the black pall
Of nothing, nothing, nothing — nothing at all.

And the music makers:

21 Responses to “Dark energy may not exist”

  1. DirtyJobsGuy Says:

    I started out life as a nuclear engineer and my physics education was good (not quite physicist grade but good). I just read an interesting book by Physicist Roger Penrose “Fashion, Faith and Fantasy” where he takes on some of the newer physics fads like string theory etc. He attempts to make it accessible by describing some of the basic math in laymans terms, but it’s tough going even for me. You can glimpse his issues with theories that try too hard and also the fact that the mathematics leads the way. they are at the far edge of knowledge and it shows.

    There is a similar book by a biologist, Nick Lane “The vital question; Energy Evolution and the origins of Complex life”, where he again attempts to explain the current thinking on the origin of life on earth. It’s all that the condition existed at a certain kind of hydrothermal vent in the ancient oceans that would inevitably result in formation of key molecules and eventually a replicating protolife. The book starts off fairly understandable to the layman, but the chemistry and statistical thermodynamics get involved fast.

    This is a big change from when I was young. Most people who did high school calculus could understand Newton and possibly electromagnetism . Similarly with a good basic knowledge of chemistry, much biology could be somewhat accessible. Today, to get close to the leading edge requires specialized knowledge. The concepts have few if any analogues in daily life (Too many dimensions!). It’s a bit sad.

  2. parker Says:

    I have in my request to my family that when I die my ashes will be cast upon the wind while Iris sings, toss me please into the mystery.

  3. neo-neocon Says:


    Are you familiar with the book Cosmosapiens: Human Evolution from the Origin of the Universe? I read parts of it and found it fascinating and relatively easy for a layperson to understand, but I’m not sure what a scientist would think of it.

  4. Tom Says:

    Iris de Ment is an unrecognized treasure. She always lifts my heart, even when tears intrude.

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Roy Lofquist Says:

    There is an alternative to the prevailing expanding universe (Big Bang) cosmology – plasma cosmology. This book by Donald E. Scott, “The Electric Sky”, applies Occam’s lawn mower to the Rube Goldberg mess of contradictions that prevails currently.

  6. F Says:

    Anyone who doubts dark energy has never sat next to Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, Sid Blumenthal or John Podesta.

  7. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    F wins.

  8. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    I sometimes wonder at the validity of a scheme of physics that only a handful of people can begin to understand yet is used to call into question on a daily basis our understanding of our surroundings.

  9. groundhog Says:

    I don’t know if it applies in theoretical physics, but whenever I get really stuck on a solving something where you’re sure you’ve already tried every possible choice twice, and there just seems like there can’t be a solution, I usually find I’ve made some completely bogus assumption somewhere along the line.

    It’s like you finally notice you put one piece of the puzzle in backwards trying to make everything fit. And finally, you notice the problem.

  10. parker Says:


    I am simple, turn the piece around and around as often as your patience allows, but if it does not fit it does not fit. Often we mere mortals will never complete the puzzle, an eternity may pass and ebb into the next eternity and distant spawn will still not make that piece fit into the puzzle.

    Humility is not defeat, its merely admitting we can never know the inner most kernal of the mystery.

  11. miklos000rosza Says:

    This isn’t something I follow nor am I drawn to an interest in it. My thinking these days has led me from the basic Sade vs Rousseau dichotomy into the realms of professional dominatrixes and the short history of performance art and how it’s mostly been female-oriented, the females more or less inevitably ending up nude, utilizing this nudity as a confrontational shock tactic, from Carolee Schneeman and Hannah Wilke through the madly screaming Karen Finley to Tracey Emin who has her own room at the Tate where after various advertisements of bisexual promiscuity one senses she can’t think of anything more she has to “say.”

    Male performance artists have tended to be gay or transgender masochistic exhibitionists, the best-known perhaps being “supermasochist” Bob Flanagan, who disgusts me because he justified his “art” as a reaction to his suffering from cystic fibrosis. I too, however, have an incurable, progressive disease, so if the art world demographic feels unable criticize him because of their unearned health I have no such operative inhibition.

    Flanagan falls far short of the ultimate masochistic male performance artist, Rudolph Scwartzkogler, who filmed himself amputating his own penis one inch at a time, until he bled to death. I knew about this fool when I was 16, and his name stuck in my head.

    Anyway, that’s a glimpse. Dark matter indeed.

  12. Philip Says:

    That Robinson poem is pretty dark – reminds me of some of my poems from some dark days, though his is a little more polished, somehow. I think also less self-centered. It would be interesting to see if that carries through in the rest of his work.

  13. carl in atlanta Says:

    I’d like to have “Let the mystery be” played at my funeral (but figure they won’t do lest it upset too many of the Presbyterians in attendance).

    Thanks Neo. Watching this after reading your post has also reminded me to wonder whatever happened to that oddly compelling TV series, “The Leftovers”, which features this as its theme song. Another mystery ; guess I’ll check on Google….

  14. carl in atlanta Says:

    Ah, google is indeed my friend today:
    Season 3 of The Leftovers starts on April 16, 2017. HBO.

    It hasn’t been on since December 2015 so Neo’s decision to embed Ms DeMent’s performance has provided some real mnemonic serendipity for me. I had been under the impression that HBO had dropped the series.

    It’s rather strange but well written and very well cast. With only two seasons in the can it should be good for binging too (if you’ve never seen it).

  15. physicsguy Says:

    Late to this party; at a great concert last night (jazz super group Fourplay).

    Anyway, yes the math required for understanding even Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory is complex. One needs partial differential equations and multivariable calculus. For QM, throw in linear algebra. That doesn’t mean the ideas are wrong, just that nature operates that way. As was once said. “God is a mathematician.”

    Dark energy always seemed to me to be a straw being clutched at. Dark matter: there’s a bit more observational evidence for such to exist in the sense that galactic rotation curves are not playing along with Newtonian/GR dynamics.

    When one is talking about either cosmology or the so-called Standard Model, one is at the very limit of understanding of how nature operates. Naturally, at this edge, we really don’t understand what is going on, so guesses are made. What you are seeing is real science in process: fits and starts, backtracks, etc. It’s a very messy but fun process. Unfortunately the established theories work so well and are so beautifully constructed , that one forgets the mess that eventually gave rise to the completed picture.

    My take: a lot of problems with cosmology and elementary particle physics will disappear when GR and QM are reconciled. Until that happens there’s going to be a lot of thrashing around.

  16. carl in atlanta Says:

    Bingeing not binging, sorry.

    I can’t even spell, much less grok QM or GR!

  17. AesopFan Says:

    carl in atlanta Says:
    April 1st, 2017 at 11:23 am
    Ah, google is indeed my friend today:
    Season 3 of The Leftovers starts on April 16, 2017. HBO.

    It’s rather strange but well written and very well cast. With only two seasons in the can it should be good for binging too (if you’ve never seen it).
    * * *
    First I’ve heard of it, as I don’t do HBO, for several reasons.

    Wikipedia is friendly too:
    “The Leftovers starts three years after a global event called the “Sudden Departure”, the inexplicable, simultaneous disappearance of 140 million people, 2% of the world’s population, on October 14, 2011.[8] Following that event, mainstream religions declined, and a number of cults emerged, most notably the Guilty Remnant.[9]”

    So, HBO catches up to the gun-toting Bible-thumpers who made the “Left Behind” series (books and movies) a mega-seller in the late 90s?

    “Based on a dispensationalist interpretation of prophecies in the Biblical books of Revelation, Daniel, Isaiah and Ezekiel, Left Behind tells the story of the end times (set in the contemporary era), in which true believers in Christ have been “raptured”, (taken instantly to heaven) leaving the world shattered and chaotic. As people scramble for answers, an obscure Romanian politician named Nicolae Jetty Carpathia rises to become secretary-general of the United Nations, promising to restore peace and stability to all nations. What most of the world does not realize is that Carpathia is actually the Antichrist foretold of in the Bible. Coming to grips with the truth and becoming born-again Christians, airline pilot Rayford Steele, his daughter Chloe, their pastor Bruce Barnes, and young journalist Cameron “Buck” Williams begin their quest as the Tribulation Force to help save the lost and prepare for the coming Tribulation, in which God will rain down judgment on the world for seven years.”

  18. AesopFan Says:

    On the subject of the Rapture (a name for the sudden temporal death and immediate resurrection of a large group of people simultaneously; most Christian denominations have differing views on the details):

    Dark Matter is a subject that intrigues me for doctrinal as well as cosmological reasons. Religious doctrines differ wildly on the composition of the non-visible spirits of mankind, as well as the composition of the bodies of the resurrected beings. So far as I know, the LDS Prophet Joseph Smith is the only one to assert (in the colloquial formulation) that “Spirit is Matter, only more refined” — which leads to the speculation that a universe full of spiritual beings is full of non-visible matter.

    * * *
    From T”he Encyclopedia of Mormonism” published by MacMillan:

    In the twentieth century, atomic theory has embodied a number of fundamental nuclear particles and powerful mathematical theories. Some, falling outside human intuition, account for properties of matter newly discovered in this century. Concepts have led to the development of unified quantum mechanical and quantum dynamic theories for both matter and light. The conservation law of Lavoisier has been extended to include all equivalent forms of matter and energy and still constitutes one of the primary pillars of modern science.

    It is significant that the teachings of the restored gospel on the eternal nature of physical matter, along with a parallel in the spiritual realm, embody these conservation principles. These are key statements: “The elements are eternal” (D&C 93:33). “The spirit of man is not a created being; it existed from eternity, and will exist to eternity. Anything created cannot be eternal; and earth, water, etc., had their existence in an elementary state, from eternity” (Joseph Smith, in HC 3:387).

    Addressing the issue of creation ex nihilo, Joseph Smith asserted in one of his final sermons: “Now, the word create…does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos-chaotic matter, which is element…. Element had an existence from the time [God] had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and reorganized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning and can have no end” (HC 6:308-309).

    Extending the concept of the eternal nature of matter to the substance of spirit, Joseph Smith revealed, “There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes; we cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter” (D&C 131:7-8).

  19. Frog Says:

    Cosmology is the infinite pursuit of grant funding to further the hunt for a “solution” that is of no redeeming value.
    There has to be a First Cause to the Big Bang, regardless of the mathematical exotica involved or the highly evanescent sub-atomic particles inferred to exist in order to explain a gap in structured understanding.

    The Book of Genesis, chapter one, suffices entirely for me.

  20. Steve D Says:

    ‘I doubt we will ever know enough to truly understand the universe’s formation in the scientific sense.’

    Cosmology nowadays is mostly speculation, not a real and hard science, like biochemistry which is based on experimental evidence and empirical observations.

    Modern physics has move too far away from empirical evidence.

  21. Alex Says:

    There’s actually a fairly simple way of understanding dark energy if you’ve taken calculus.

    Whenever you solved an indefinite integral in calculus, you recall that you have to stick “+ C” onto your answer. That is, there’s always an undetermined constant that you get from integrating. As Einstein was figuring out his gravitational field equations, one of these undetermined constants snuck into the problem; he called it the “cosmological constant”. And if you look at what the behavior of this cosmological constant is in the real world, it’s exactly equivalent to a constant energy density that pervades all of the universe and affects its rate of expansion. And that’s what’s called “dark energy”. More dark energy means faster-accelerating expansion.

    Many people are bothered by this weird stuff and thus there are efforts to show that the cosmological constant is actually zero. If it were zero, however, then that certainly means that there’s some fundamental law of the universe we haven’t figured out yet – no value in physics is accidentally zero. If the cosmological constant is indeed exactly zero, then there must be some unknown boundary condition or undiscovered symmetry of the universe forcing it to be zero. Discovering such a brand new fundamental law would be tremendously exciting to cosmologists, which is why people are trying so hard to come up with ways that it could still be allowed to be zero.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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