Nobel Physics and the Fate of the Universe

Supernova explosion in the Large Magellanic Cloud

The Nobel Prize for Physics 2011 was announced today. Three astrophysicists join a galaxy of numinous people, from Einstein to Heisenberg to Feynman for the big award in physics. They were looking at cosmic lighthouses, distant supernovae – the only objects bright enough to be observed at such vast distances – and they  have concluded that the energy they emit is too faint, or, fainter than it ought to be.

So, the Universe isn’t just expanding, but its rate of expansion is increasing. The radius of the ball that is the Universe isn’t just getting bigger at a steady rate, the rate itself is increasing. So, energy from distant objects is being smeared out over a wider and wider area hence the light arriving on every square metre of Earth is less intense.

What does this mean? It means that the inflationary force of expansion of the early Universe plus other forces due to dark matter are bigger than the gravitational attractions wanting to pull all the bits together.  It also means that Einstein’s fudge factor in 1917 to prevent the collapse of the Universe was probably right. It also implies that 70% or more of the Universe is dark matter energy which exerts repulsive (antigravity) forces. So, overall density is decreasing (ω<1) and the dark and the cold will surely come…

But, not yet.

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2 thoughts on “Nobel Physics and the Fate of the Universe

  1.  In response, Michael, when Einstein originally tried to produce a general theory of relativity (University physics) he found that the theory seemed to predict the gravitational collapse of the universe: it seemed that the universe should either be expanding or collapsing, and to produce a model in which the universe was stable and static which seemed to Einstein at the time to be the “proper” result), he introduced an expansionist variable (called the Cosmological Constant – the fudge factor whose sole purpose was to cancel out the cumulative effects of gravitation. He later called this, “the biggest blunder of my life”. It was later found that the constant was necessary and does appear to actually exist. Intuition rules…

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