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2011 Nobel Prize In Physics

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the magnets-how-do-they-work dept.

Science 119

brindafella writes "Thirteen years ago, two teams of astronomers and physicists independently made the same stark discovery: Not only is the universe expanding like a vast inflating balloon, but its expansion is speeding up. The two teams have now been recognized with the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics. Half of the prize will go to Saul Perlmutter of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, who led the Supernova Cosmology Project. The other half will be shared by Brian Schmidt of the Australian National University's Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, who led the High-z Supernova Search Team, and Adam Riess of Johns Hopkins University and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, who worked on High-z. In essence, they proved that Einstein's 'biggest mistake' (the cosmological constant, to create a 'stable universe') was actually a clever theoretical prediction that there was something else happening — dark energy."

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119 comments

Very depressing! (2, Funny)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 2 years ago | (#37608944)

Not only are the galaxies going to fly apart but our solar system, the planets, our bodies, our cells and ultimately even our atoms (and subatomic particles!). I think only photons or other massless particles will be spared. :(

I know the Nobel committee said the Universe will end in Ice not Fire but it seems more like a great empty VOID.

So... is there a way to harness this "dark energy"? Like attaching a rope between two objects (planets?) and let the universe try to pull it apart? Or would the rope have to be massless? Or maybe there is a more direct way of harnessing this energy? (anti-gravity?)

IAVONAP (I am very obviously not a physicist).

Re:Very depressing! (2)

KnowThePath (964067) | more than 2 years ago | (#37608978)

Not only are the galaxies going to fly apart but our solar system, the planets, our bodies, our cells and ultimately even our atoms (and subatomic particles!).

Is this a good time to take out mortgage then?

Re:Very depressing! (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 2 years ago | (#37609372)

Would it be less depressing to you if all ended in a Big Crunch? Why do we find a static universe pleasing? No birth without death.

Galaxies don't expand, so two planets wouldn't work as a way to harness dark energy. But the idea is that every cube of space, when you take out all the mass, still has some energy. Perhaps in form of tension or a pressure. So you wouldn't need to go far. But it is incredibly little. Although I should emphasize we don't know what it is yet, so we wouldn't even know how to start harnessing it.

Re:Very depressing! (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#37611296)

Would it be less depressing to you if all ended in a Big Crunch? The collapsing universe idea seemed sensible because it implied the universe was in an endless regenerative cycle. If it's just a one-shot deal, why is it happening now, of all times?

Penrose thinks otherwise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37612846)

Read Penrose's latest book. He seems to think otherwise.

Re:Very depressing! (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 2 years ago | (#37614500)

Isn't some expansion of the universe implied by relativity?

Consider: an electron near the edge of the visible universe still influences the electrons in by body to some tiny degree. One would expect the edge of the visible universe to be effectively an event horizon - nothing beyond the edge should be able to affect us here in any way. Yet it that electron "on the edge" is influenced by stuff "past the edge", and then eventually affects us, there is no event horizon, just a light horizon (which isn't really allowed per relativity). But if the universe is inflating (effectively becoming smaller in terms of content, as stuff moves out of the visible universe), this paradox is resolved.

Re:Very depressing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37609560)

Depressing? No, it is absurd. You are still going to eat, clothe yourself, work your job, etc., even though you know in the future that the universe will effectively disintegrate. Your programming forces you to do so.

But it isn't depressing because absurdity is not the same thing as being meaningless. Absurdity cannot be escaped, but by eating, clothing yourself, working your job, etc., you add meaning to your life. That is the best you can do. Your programming determines the meaning of your life.

Re:Very depressing! (1)

Darfeld (1147131) | more than 2 years ago | (#37609606)

The whole idea behind "dark energy" is that we don't know what it actually is or where it come from. So my guess is that until we know enough about it to put a better name on it, we won't do anything with it.

But, don't worry, we have a hell of a lot of time to figure it out.

Re:Very depressing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37609732)

Not only are the galaxies going to fly apart but our solar system, the planets, our bodies, our cells and ultimately even our atoms (and subatomic particles!).

That's wrong, you're mixing two phenomena.

The galaxies themselves would stay intact due to much stronger local gravity. I think even some local clusters would stay together (not sure about that) or at least galaxies that orbit each other. In the far far future though we won't see other distant galaxies be cause they would be too far away for light to ever reach us. That is, the expansion of space for that distance would be faster that the speed of light. So the light never reaches us. We already have this problem, that's why we don't know the size of the universe exactly, it's at least the size of the visible universe and probably larger. We are lucky that we are only 13.7 billion years in. Turn that number up significantly and the number of galaxies in the sky goes down.

However it looks like all particles do decay. Even though proton decay is yet to be observed (or not). Meaning sometime in the very far future humans would not be able to exist in this form - there wouldn't be any atoms around.

And it's not depressing. The timescales discussed are unimaginable. It's like trying to decide what colour jeans to wear on January 1st 3000, it doesn't make much sense.

Re:Very depressing! (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 2 years ago | (#37609790)

You're totally right as far as you go, but he's referring to "big rip" cosmologies, where ultimately (if you believe them hyper-literally, which is a bit suspect itself) the acceleration of the universe *vastly* overpowers gravitational bonds, and then electrostatic bonds, and then electroweak bonds and eventually strong bonds. And then there's a singularity.

It's possible to write a theory with a big rip, but they're pretty contrived and it doesn't look likely to me.

Re:Very depressing! (1)

StripedCow (776465) | more than 2 years ago | (#37609826)

Not depressing, by the time we get there, we will probably have figured out a way to deal with it.

CERN (1)

ravenshrike (808508) | more than 2 years ago | (#37608962)

Out of curiosity, assuming that CERN in fact broke the light speed barrier, how does that effect things like the dark energy equations, if it effects them at all?

Re:CERN (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37609032)

Until we have some understanding of the (assumed) new physics responsible, I don't think anyone can say.

Re:CERN (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37609104)

It means what we've all known and been thinking. That this "Dark Matter" and "Dark Energy" stuff is all baloney. It means that we DO have control of our destiny and that we CAN travel to the stars. It means that the Universe is probably infinite, and that we have the power to shape the future of the Universe, because we are the Universe.

If we went Manhattan-Project style on the idea of going to the stars, we'd be there in no time.

Scientists are just people who like to shit on the hearts of Engineers. If we actually listened to the "scientific consensus", we'd never have broken the sound barrier, we'd shut down all of our oil refineries, and would have never truly harnessed all the powers of computing.

I dropped out of University and started my own company because I learned that the bulk of the process of science, at least in terms of Engineering, is just a bunch of bunk. If you want to actually accomplish something without having a bunch of idiots telling you that your dream isn't possible, don't go into science, because you'll never actually get anything done. Go into Engineering, where you start from scratch, brute force problems, and actually try things.

Wannabe nerds that act as the working hands of science will just out anybody as an idiot if someone dare says that the Lorentz Factor is a load of horse shit. They want to tie velocity and gravity together, whenever the recent experiment breaking the light speed barrier throws all of that away.

People of science will say that they are open to new ideas, and new theories, but will shit on anybody who goes against the consensus. They say that looking for Extra Terrestrial life is meaningless because there is no reason to believe it's there, as we have no evidence of it. Scientists like to just with their eyes closed and agree with what's been agreed upon, and question it only by agreeing with the consensus even more.

Michio Kaku is full of shit, Einstein was full of shit, and everyone who ever believed in most of General Relativity is full of shit, and is a waste of space (no pun intended).

Now the biologists and chemists, that's science that I can believe in.
 

Re:CERN (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37609504)

I dropped out of University and started my own company

I wasn't aware that if you started your own company you were automatically considered an expert in physics, knowing more than anybody else with so-called "qualifications."

You must be really smart. I'll bet you watch CSI to learn good science.

Re:CERN (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37609782)

He should create a gui in Visual Basic and track the IP of the killer!

Re:CERN (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 2 years ago | (#37609798)

You got modded +1 for statements like "we CAN travel to the stars" and "the Universe is probably infinite, and that we have the power to shape the future of the Universe, because we are the Universe", "If we went Manhattan-Project style on the idea of going to the stars, we'd be there in no time" and "Scientists are just people who like to shit on the hearts of Engineers"?

Well played.

Re:CERN (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#37610426)

That +1 was "funny" and he got a -1 troll. No karma for a "funny". I can't figure out if he was modded by scientists or engineers or thirteen year old kids. He's AC so maybe he logged out and commented, then logged on and modded himself down?

Re:CERN (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#37609880)

It means what we've all known and been thinking. That this "Dark Matter" and "Dark Energy" stuff is all baloney. It means that we DO have control of our destiny and that we CAN travel to the stars. It means that the Universe is probably infinite, and that we have the power to shape the future of the Universe, because we are the Universe.

If we went Manhattan-Project style on the idea of going to the stars, we'd be there in no time.

Wait, don't you have to be right first?

Here, you're all ready to start colonizing the galaxy, but we're missing the most important part: a phenomenon that would let us travel much faster than the speed of light. It makes no sense to fire up the project without the loophole already in mind.

The current experimental approach for high energy colliders is actually rather efficient IMHO for finding FTL phenomena. It's like have a vast field with one or more divots in the field. You could painstakingly go over that field to figure out whether there is a divot and where it would be. Or you could drop trillions of marbles on the field at random and have a computer program tell you when a marble falls in a hole.

Re:CERN (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 2 years ago | (#37609916)

No no no you see you make everything out of neutrinos! That way you can get where you're going a couple of days faster than light, which *obviously* opens the universe to exploration because it would only take you about four years to get the nearest star! Building everything, including yourself, out of neutrinos is just an engineering problem and those mighty engineers are just being held back by us pathetic weedy little killjoy fucking PHYSICISTS. Fuck those physicists.

Re:CERN (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37610102)

So basically you're proud of being nothing more than an "Oompa-Loompa" of Science. Better stop ranting and get back to work then. :)

Re:CERN (2)

ljhiller (40044) | more than 2 years ago | (#37610154)

I read the sad story of a bitter failure who's full of shit. Let's see you brute force yourself a 1m accuracy GPS system without Einstein. You can do it. You'd just be the latest in a long line of mule-headed engineers going back to Ptolemy. What, it's not accurate enough? Let's throw on another epicycle (correction fit to the residual). Still not accurate? Another epicycle (correction fit to the residual of the residual). Kepler and Einstein are full of shit, we'll just brute force it, right? You want a hand-held gps? Sure, we'll engineer it, and here's the battery in a backpack to power all those corrections. Please tell me your field and state so I can avoid whatever it is you engineer. P.S. OPERA is the first neutrino speed measurement. We've been measuring the speed of neutrinos for over 50 years, only one of them has error bars that don't include c. And THAT measurement is outside the error bars of all the other measurements. But you put all your faith in the outlier. P.P.S. I have the design for a gyroscopic perpetual energy machine. The 'scientists' say it can't work. But I'd be willing to part with the design and give it to your 'engineering' firm for $50k and an NDA.

Re:CERN (2)

rgbatduke (1231380) | more than 2 years ago | (#37610208)

Wannabe nerds that act as the working hands of science will just out anybody as an idiot if someone dare says that the Lorentz Factor is a load of horse shit. They want to tie velocity and gravity together, whenever the recent experiment breaking the light speed barrier throws all of that away.

To Anonymous,

Oh dear, Mr. Coward, just when my self-esteem was starting to recover, now I'm a wannabe nerd, a "working hand of science". Sigh. Well, my duty is clear -- your brilliant comment has shown me what I must do.

You, sir, are an idiot because you dare to say the Lorentz Factor (whatever the hell that is -- I know what the Lorentz Transformation is, I know what O(1,3) is, I know what a Lie algebra is, but "Lorentz Factor" -- capitalized, no less -- I can only assume that you mean \gamma) is a load of horse shit.

Perhaps if you went back to University -- assuming that your substance abuse problem is now under control and you are taking your meds -- you could learn a little bit about actual relativity theory instead of learning it from the Discovery channel with its silly pictures of curved surfaces and ponderous voiceovers, and who knows? Maybe you'd learn of the eight zillion pieces of experimental evidence we have that it is, for the most part, correct (instead of citing the one as-yet unverified report of a single particle that might -- might, mind you -- prove the exception to a very general rule).

For example, there is little problem with mu-mesons, produced by cosmic ray collisions in the upper atmosphere that leave them streaking at nearly the speed of light towards the Earth. Their exponential time constant is roughly 2 microseconds (I can say this authoritatively as I myself measured it in a physics lab as an undergrad). 2 microseconds times 3X10^8 = 600 meters, so that basically no mu mesons should reach the ground, many tens of exponential lifetimes away. Yet nearly all of them do, because of that pesky Lorentz Factor, \gamma! How about that! The mu mesons think that all of that distance is contracted to be less than 600 meters, and we think that their little bitty clocks are all dilated and everything so that they live much longer than they would at rest. It quantitatively works out.

I'd continue and wax poetical about e.g. spin orbit interactions, successive infinitesimal Lorentz transformations, and g-factors, but if I did your head would clearly explode. Suffice it to say that ordinary chemistry would be extraordinarily different if relativity theory where entirely false. You did say that you believe in biology and chemistry, right? You do know that chemistry is derivable from physics, and that biology is best understood in terms of chemistry (and physics), right?

But no, no, to even understand the evidence you'd have to actually learn some mathematics, and clearly that is out of the question, even with your meds adjusted. Besides, if we listened to the scientific consensus, we would never have broken the sound barrier, that's clear (and I did not know that, thanks for cluing me in). I guess everything I read back as a lad about how we actually did break the sound barrier, overcoming all sorts of physics and engineering problems involving turbulence and critical properties of fluid flow was, sadly, a lie. I'm surprised that you didn't accuse scientists of still being in a state of denial about that. I certainly was. Now I am Enlightened.

I hope you don't interpret this reply wrong. I would indeed have said in response to a less informative comment, one that didn't communicate with your clear, incisive wit, that I'm open to new ideas and new theories, as a theoretical physicist. I would have said, in fact, that the entire physics community is pretty damn open to new ideas, new theories, and new evidence (hence TFA, Nobel Prizes given to people who have pursued what I would call a "new idea, a new theory" and found experimental evidence to support it). But damn, now you tell me that I have to shit on you because you go against the consensus. Well fine, if I must I must, hence this reply.

Still, don't take this personally -- it's just that my mod points expired yesterday and so I can't simply and anonymously consign your remarks to the "waste of perfectly good pixels on my screen" bin that they so richly deserve.

Good luck with your "company", BTW. I'm certain that you have many investors; just think of the profits that you'll doubtless realize mining the gentle hills and valleys of an Earthlike planet around Arcturus. I am certain that -- given that you ARE the Universe -- you will manage to twist together a few wires, some tubes, and a bit of this and that and open a strange portal to other dimensions that let you avoid having to deal with all of the inconveniences of a few tens of trillions of miles and huge gravity wells on both ends, obstacles that frankly make star travel more or less impossible even ignoring relativity altogether. After all, Engineering doesn't actually require a knowledge of physics or mathematics, only a knowledge of chemistry and biology and a Good, Healthy Attitude! Bully Bully! Anything Is Possible! Damn The Torpedoes! If Science Fiction says it is possible, it Must Be So. Let's Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before, in spite of these damn naysayer nerd wannabes!

Alas, most Universities and their pesky Engineering schools seem to disagree with you and force their many students of Engineering to (gasp!) take physics classes that do things like teach the first and second laws of thermodynamics (both of which tend to argue against magical thinking and hence contribute to the irritating pessimism that you object to). Why, sometimes I end up teaching them! I'm so ashamed.

Yet I am also grateful. I only realized as I read your marvelous contribution to human knowledge that I am actually obstructing these impressionable young minds and that they'd get far more done if they were just dumped into a machine shop and electronics shop somewhere straight out of high school with a bunch of raw materials (including some top quality hallucinogens and don't forget the crack cocaine...). This spring I promise that my students and I will devote all of our class time to researching top-quality pharmaceuticals, as those clearly are more relevant to Reaching The Stars than that pesky Lorentz Factor or annoying estimates that suggest that one would have to burn a small planet for fuel to get there.

I must say, though, that your assessment of Michio and Albert is spot on. Well, Einstein is dead (and hence arguably is shit at this point) but Michio is AFAIK alive, and living human beings are invariably full of shit (unless, of course, they are preparing for a colonoscopy). I don't know much about the state of Michio's colon, but the odds are clearly in your favor. You have truly mastered your biology, sir! Good job!

rgb

Re:CERN (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37611148)

(whatever the hell that is -- I know what the Lorentz Transformation is, I know what O(1,3) is, I know what a Lie algebra is, but "Lorentz Factor" -- capitalized, no less -- I can only assume that you mean \gamma)

Indeed. [wikipedia.org]

Re:CERN (1)

rgbatduke (1231380) | more than 2 years ago | (#37611370)

Yeah, I was kidding, I knew that. But the point is/was that \gamma isn't the LT, (and doesn't require dual capitalization) and to the extent that one writes kiddy-physics-wise L' = L/\gamma or t' = \gamma t for simple length contraction or time dilation instead of writing a proper LT using e.g. the boost parameter and hyperbolic 4-rotations it does work and work quite well, to describe things like ground level mu meson flux. That's an easy one because to measure it requires two good sized photomultipliers and a bit of electronics, readily available in nearly any undergrad physics lab. Coincidence detection within the decay window even gives you directionality.

BTW, great sig.

rgb

Re:CERN (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37609360)

If everything still works, we keep using them while trying to figure out why they work.

Engineers rejoice, scientists scream their heads off.

Re:CERN (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37610362)

Not to worry. The speed of light is just slowing down relative to the rate of the expansion of mass and the universe. How else do you think they can duck those laser blasts in futuristic science fiction movies. In fact that expansion now explains some of gravity. The earth doesn't suck. It's pushing us away. No one said that it is a uniform expansional acceleration.
I look forward to the day when our nuetrino sensing overlords are laughing at us big photonites fumbling around in the slow dark.

Re:CERN (1)

wienerschnizzel (1409447) | more than 2 years ago | (#37610730)

how does that effect things like the dark energy equations, if it effects them at all?

There are no 'dark energy equations', just standard physics applied to observational data.. Scientists have proved that the universe is expanding and that the expansion of the universe is accelerating based on observational data from a couple of different (you might say 'independent' if you don't try to be too philosophical about it) sources [wikipedia.org] . By running the data through standard physics equations they were able to calculate the magnitude of *an* energy that would be required to support that accelleration. They gave that energy a name - 'Dark Energy'.

Now there are two ways this faster-than-light (FTL) paradigm can change our view on Dark Energy

a) Somebody will come up with a completely new physics based on FTL just like Einstein came up with a new physics 100 years ago. This means we'll have a new set of equations to run our observational data through

b) We will get new observational data based on the fact we have a new information source that is faster than light.

c) a combination of above

At this point your guess is as good as mine

Re:CERN One thought on this (2)

InterGuru (50986) | more than 2 years ago | (#37611020)

All particles with positive mass go slower than the speed of light.
    Particles with zero mass go at the speed of light.
Neutrinos, going faster than c like tachyons [wikipedia.org] have imaginary mass.
Imaginary mass, plugged into gravitational formula which uses mass squared will give repulsion rather than attraction.
If the universe is filled with these neutrinos, it would explain the repulsive force we label as dark energy.

This is derived from a previous comment [slashdot.org] I made, corrected by a reply [slashdot.org] .

Re:CERN One thought on this (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37611666)

Gravitaiton doesn't use mass squared, it uses the product of two different masses (at least Newtonian gravitation, GR doesn't directly use mass at all, only energy and momentum). So naively inserting an imaginary mass into Newton's gravitational force for both particles will indeed give repulsion (i.e. two imaginary masses would repulse each other). However putting in one imaginary and one real mass (to find out how tachyons interact with an ordinary mass) would give an imaginary force. I have no idea what that would describe. Dragging particles into an imaginary direction?

Re:CERN One thought on this (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#37611918)

Imaginary mass, plugged into gravitational formula which uses mass squared will give repulsion rather than attraction.

If you're describing two imaginary masses. If you're describing an imaginary mass interacting with a real mass, you have an imaginary gravitational force. Given that all interactions between dark matter and normal matter would be of this nature, that's kind of a defect in your idea.

Will we fit? (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 2 years ago | (#37608982)

The human population grows exponentially, which the universe apparently may do too. If we will build spacecrafts capable of intergalactic traveling, will we fit, eventually?

If space does not accelerate fast enough, probably not.

Re:Will we fit? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37609010)

The human population does not grow exponentially. The closest approximation for the last century is quadratic (the first derivative is linear).

Re:Will we fit? (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 2 years ago | (#37609088)

Using (from Wikipedia)

1950 2519
1955 2756
1960 2982
1965 3335
1970 3692
1975 4068
1980 4435
1985 4831
1990 5263
1995 5674
2000 6070
2005 6454
2008 6707

in LibreOffice I get

2574.67 exp(0.017222 x)

with R2 at 0.9945

What am i missing (except that changes in social behavious will/may influence those numbers)?

Re:Will we fit? (2)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 2 years ago | (#37609406)

Using (from Wikipedia)

in LibreOffice I get

2574.67 exp(0.017222 x)

with R2 at 0.9945

What am i missing (except that changes in social behavious will/may influence those numbers)?

That a polynomial of 2nd degree gives R^2=0.999, so a better fit. I mean look at the fitted curves, the exponential is way off.

Re:Will we fit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37609030)

We're not grey goo.

Dark energy (4, Insightful)

lazykoala (2477144) | more than 2 years ago | (#37608998)

Dark energy is the name of a problem, not a solution. It's embarrassing that 75% of the universe is made up of we-have-no-idea-what.

Re:Dark energy (0)

mburns (246458) | more than 2 years ago | (#37609136)

Dark energy represents an empirical set of evidence as well as a mathematical model. The empirical evidence could yet be interpreted in the context of the existence of accumulating carbon dust, and the evolution over history of the supernovae concerned - their increasing content of metals and their increasing spin as time progresses.

The mathematical model rates as an embarrassment from the perspective of my criticism of fundamental physics. What withstands criticism is a possible background of conserved negative mass, together with a possible background of negative tachyonic mass, which is conserved in its direction of propagation.

Re:Dark energy (3, Interesting)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 2 years ago | (#37609882)

"The empirical evidence could yet be interpreted in the context of the existence of accumulating carbon dust,"

No, it couldn't, there have been plenty of studies on the effect of dust on light propagation and it simply doesn't explain the observations.

"the evolution over history of the supernovae concerned - their increasing content of metals and their increasing spin as time progresses."

True, the progenitors aren't that well understood. This is usually treated as a systematic error in the surveys. The use of SN1a as standard candles is still somewhat controversial, which is why these days I always advocate leaving out the supernova datasets completely, in favour of observations of the CMB and of large-scale structures and the baryon acoustic oscillations in particular. Those two datasets combined give us a universe with about 25% dark matter, 70% dark energy, and 5% normal matter. The fact that the supernovae *also* happen to intersect at basically that exact same part of the plots is pretty suggestive that the systematics aren't very significant, though.

"The mathematical model rates as an embarrassment from the perspective of my criticism of fundamental physics."

This would be your famous criticism of fundamental physics that has received such attention? What criticism of fundamental physics? Do you fancy explaining why you think the mathematical model is an "embarrassment" or are you simply trolling? (I happen to think that the model is being over-interpreted since it's ultimately phenomenology - but it's startlingly successful for a phenomenological theory, and predictions have been tested against observation with a lot of success. The BAOs serve as a nice example of that.

"What withstands criticism is a possible background of conserved negative mass,"

Now you're beginning to enter the realms of whacky. Let me guess, negative mass in Newton's formulae give antigravity ERGO EVERYTHING IS SOLVED LOL! Right?

"Together with a possible background of negative tachyonic mass, which is conserved in its direction of propagation."

And what the flying fuck is that meant to mean? Yeah yeah tachyons with negative mass. So, what, they lose mass perpendicular to their direction of motion? Kind of like a bird flying in a storm? How about you write a sensible theory and try and get it past all the standard tests.... no, wait, you won't.

Re:Dark energy (1)

mburns (246458) | more than 2 years ago | (#37611354)

"... the effect of dust on light propagation ... simply doesn't explain the observations."
But no term at all for this is included in the analysis. Long nano fibers would have an unfocused influence on the measurements.

"... why [do] you think the mathematical model is an "embarrassment" or are you simply trolling?"
The cosmological constant and many other representations of dark energy are ruled out by the Bianchi identities that apply. This becomes plain when when the proper tensor rank is used for the spacetime entities invoked. The cosmological constant is an artifact of using a second rank tensor to represent the Einstein tensor, and a simple divergence operation to show conservation, instead of using the fourth rank tensor and exterior derivative operation that satisfy the criterion of general covariance. The Bianchi identities translate to the conservation laws in the context of mechanics, but in geometry they are theorems which follow when the metric exists.

"... phenomenology ... "
General relativity is not a mere metaphor, as epicycles were.

" ... negative mass in Newton's formulae give antigravity ... "
Newton's formula for gravity does agree with this possibility that inheres in the Einstein tensor. It is also interesting that a simple acceleration of expansion gives supernovae that are closer and brighter at a given redshift.

"Yeah, yeah, tachyons with negative mass."
I should have written negative momentum, which is a better translation into mechanics of the possibilities allowed by the Einstein tensor. There is no principle in geometry which disallows this feature of the Einstein tensor. The Bianchi identities conserve superluminal momentum in that same superluminal direction. The identities even allow superluminal dilation horizons.

Spacial dilation causes divergent spacial curvature, which progressively weakens the intensity of light as it travels. This agrees with the phenomenon.

But a non conserved version of dark energy is contrary to the Bianchi identities.

Re:Dark energy (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 2 years ago | (#37611906)

1: Are you suggesting that the cosmos is filled with "long nano fibers"? Feel free to model it (properly), write it up rigorously and put it onto the arxiv; I'm sure people would read it. How "long" are you talking? What's the production mechanism? Or are they left behind by alien civilisations...? And yes, terms considering the dust *are* included in analyses. Generally they'll be bundled into systematic errors. There have also been numerous dedicated studies into the effects of dust. (Besides, I'm always happy to ignore the supernova data. Feel free to explain how the long carbon nanotubes can ensure that the CMB and BAO datasets alone combine to constrain \Omega_M=0.3 and \Omega_Lambda=0.7. We don't *need* the supernovae anymore. The fact that CMB+SN1a \approx CMB+BAO is frankly pretty impressive and suggests that the systematics are reasonably controlled.)

2: The cosmological constant is not ruled out by the Bianchi identities. Do you know what the Bianchi identities are? They're *differential identities*. So if I add a term proportional to the metric, and I'm working in a theory (like GR) with a metric-compatible connection, the cosmological constant is allowed by the Bianchi identities. \nabla^\mu G_{\mu\nu}=\nabla^\mu (G_{\mu\nu}-\Lambda g_{\mu\nu}) if \nabla^\mu g_{\mu\nu}=0. Do you have an issue with that? If so, write it up rigorously and put it onto the arxiv. I'm sure people would read it.

3: The Einstein tensor *is* a "second-rank tensor". G_{\mu\nu}=R_{\mu\nu}-\frac{1}{2}g_{\mu\nu}R. R_{\mu\nu} is a tensor. g_{\mu\nu} is a tensor. Are you trying to claim that G_{\mu\nu} isn't a tensor? Or are you proposing that we should use a theory of gravity governed directly by the Riemann and Weyl tensors? Or are you claiming that the Einstein tensor isn't a second-order tensor? Because it is. Because we can write GR like that, of course we can, but still no identity rules out the cosmological constant. Talk of using fourth-order tensors to formulate your theory doesn't change that.

4: Sorry, I wasn't clear. By "phenomenology" I was referring to Robertson-Walker cosmology, not to GR. GR is a theory of gravity. The use of Robertson-Walker metrics is phenomenology. To be brief, the universe is self-evidently inhomogeneous and anisotropic. The CMB is isotropic around the Earth to a high degree. Assuming the Copernican principle, it seems reasonable to then conclude that "on average" (whatever that means; you may be aware that we do not possess a well-defined average of a tensor field) the "universe" (whatever that means; it's normally taken to mean the metric) is homogeneous and isotropic. But those "on average" statements immediately raise a problem: what is the right background. The background is, after all, purely fictional. Worse, while it's perfectly plausible that the average metric of spacetime tends towards Robertson-Walker for sufficiently large domains (perhaps with a radius above 200Mpc or so), it does not at all follow that the dynamics of the universe averaged over sufficiently large domains are themselves Robertson-Walker, due to the nonlinearity of the Einstein equations. What this boils down to is that RW cosmology, while startlingly successful and currently unchallenged by a serious complete competitor, is phenomenology. We don't know if the dark matter term is actually dark matter, a manifestation of relativistic corrections, or the result of a badly-defined average. Exactly the same goes for the dark energy. Until we can solve these issues - which involve pure general relativity and no new physics - RW cosmology is and will remain phenomenology. No worse for that; many great theories are phenomenological. But phenomenology nonetheless.

5: Speculation about negative masses isn't necessarily helpful. If you've got a good reason to postulate negative masses you have to follow through every consequence of such, right it up rigorously, and publish. I can guarantee you'll find people generally hostile to assume that negative mass can exist, so you'll have to make some very persuasive, very rigorous arguments.

6: I don't even know what you're trying to say here. Bear in mind that I've got some idea about relativity and I know what the Einstein tensor is. For one thing: it has sod all to do with either mass or momentum, it's a purely geometric construction. So I'm not sure what "this feature" is. Maybe you're referring to some symmetry in the Einstein tensor that you hope will give rise to some conserved quantity? If so you'd be best trying to write an action for gravity that depends on the Einstein tensor - and good luck with that one. And, ultimately, I've got no idea what you're trying to achieve. Negative mass implies superluminal motion (because of Bianchi identities???) implies superluminal dilation horizons (whatever precisely you mean by that; maybe you just mean the usual horizon that appears in, for instance, de Sitter space?) which apparently implies divergent spatial curvature (though I doubt that that follows) which apparently implies a weakening intensity?

If you can show all this, good on you, write it up rigorously, and post it on the arxiv. People will read it. Just don't expect them to believe something without proof. It's a horrible, offensive old truism that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and if you're the one making those claims, you're the one who has to provide it.

Re:Dark energy (4, Insightful)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 2 years ago | (#37609414)

Dark energy is the name of a problem, not a solution. It's embarrassing that 75% of the universe is made up of we-have-no-idea-what.

No, it is exciting, and it's astonishing that we know this fact.

Re:Dark energy (2)

Shag (3737) | more than 2 years ago | (#37609696)

This is just the first step. "Oh, hey, something must exist."

Step two is figuring out what that something is, and/or how it works. That's what we're* working on now.

Then comes application of that knowledge.

Einstein's Field Equations back around the first World War might have seemed awfully cryptic, but they led to quantum physics, which led to semiconductors, which led to Slashdot. (Okay, I may have skipped a step or two.)

So maybe in another 100 years, this dark energy stuff will actually lead to something.

*As a GradCert surrounded by PhD's, I'm probably Saul Perlmutter's least educated collaborator [harvard.edu] .

Re:Dark energy (2)

bjorniac (836863) | more than 2 years ago | (#37610222)

Actually, EFE have nothing to do with quantum physics - they're purely classical. Schrodinger/Heisenberg is where you want to really look for quantum physics (or the photoelectric effect, also an Einstein thing but nothing to do with the field equations).

That's not to say that EFE aren't awesome - they gave us the tools we needed for GPS etc, and tons of insight into cosmology, but technologically speaking we wouldn't be far behind if we still had a Minkowski space + Quantum Field Theory version of physics right now.

Totally with you in spirit, there definitely IS something there that we don't know about, and examining it is the first step towards developing something out of it. I just wish people would give us the money to look at it from all angles.

Re:Dark energy (1)

atisss (1661313) | more than 2 years ago | (#37609718)

Obligatory http://wulffmorgenthaler.com/strip/2011/10/05 [wulffmorgenthaler.com]

Re:Dark energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37610652)

Obligatory http://wulffmorgenthaler.com/strip/2011/10/05 [wulffmorgenthaler.com]

Haha! A guy shook up another guy's beer... in a particle accelerator! So it's like he really shook it up a lot! Except that particle accelerators don't shake things, so it doesn't even make sense. And we never see the beer explode or any kind of punchline!

How the fuck did you find that even remotely funny?

Re:Dark energy - Ptolemaic Cosmology (2)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37610210)

We should just call what we have Ptolemaic Cosmology. We have no idea what the heck is going on. What we know is good enough for the technology we have. Dark matter and dark energy are just our versions of the epicycles. Convent for expressing what we see but no basis in reality.

Re:Dark energy - Ptolemaic Cosmology (3, Insightful)

Bootsy Collins (549938) | more than 2 years ago | (#37610510)

Dark matter and dark energy are just our versions of the epicycles. Convent for expressing what we see but no basis in reality.

You can only be confident about something like that if you're incredibly impatient, and don't know much about how hard this stuff is. The earliest observational evidence of dark matter came from the 1930s, when Fritz Zwicky measured the line-of-sight velocities of galaxies in clusters and realized that there had to be more mass in clusters than could be attributed to the galaxies alone, or there wouldn't be enough gravity to keep them together as a cluster. It was another 30+ years later that we observed with X-ray telescopes a decent-sized chunk of that missing mass in clusters, in the form of a hot intracluster plasma at temperatures of tens of millions of degrees that fills the space between galaxies in clusters and, in rich clusters of galaxies, contributes several times more mass to the cluster than the galaxies within it. Thirty-plus years, for something that's fairly easy to see once you have the technology that can look there (X-ray telescopes); it took us a while to get it.

All our cosmological theories may turn out to be complete crap. But it's absurd to say so now on the basis of complaints like 'we haven't solved the dark matter problem yet' or 'we can't explain a nonzero vacuum energy.' There was a fair amount of time between Oersted and Maxwell, as well. In the meantime, the most plausible theories will get pursued, and we'll see.

Re:Dark energy - Ptolemaic Cosmology (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37611042)

It's not that we haven't solved the dark matter problem. It is that we speak of an imaginary construct erected to save an accepted model as if that imaginary construct is real. Saying that we really don't know what is going on is not impatience or fundamental lack of awareness of what scientific knowledge is. It is recognition that the Big Bang explanation has some fundamental challenges and we have to turn to imaginary matter and imaginary energy to continue to cling on. Epicycles actually predicted the apparent motion of planets quite well. It was not until orbital mechanics and elliptical motion were understood that any competing notions could match epicycles. Astronomers could see the fundamental problem of shadows on planets and recognize that epicycles require an imaginary impetus to cause bodies to orbit a moving point in space with no visible indication that anything existed at these points. Our current cosmological model is increasingly supported by imagination.

Re:Dark energy - Ptolemaic Cosmology (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#37611888)

What we know is good enough for the technology we have.

I'd quite like for us to develop some kind of technology we don't already have.

Re:Dark energy (1)

epine (68316) | more than 2 years ago | (#37612136)

Dark energy is the name of a problem, not a solution. It's embarrassing that 75% of the universe is made up of we-have-no-idea-what.

Dark energy is the anonymous coward of particle physics. If it would sign up for a proper account, it would be far easier to study. It's possible that we already understand dark energy completely: a term that shows up in a few things we already measure, with no additional personality to be further described.

Is it not possible there could be such a physics: lurker particles that show up in only one force with hardly any intricate structure to alleviate our embarrassment?

embrason (1)

epine (68316) | more than 2 years ago | (#37612208)

Perhaps dark energy is mediated by embrasons. If there was a god, and he was anything like me, the universe would surely have such a particle.

Re:Dark energy (1)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | more than 2 years ago | (#37612304)

I would not say that it is embarrassing.

It sure kicks the shit out of intellectual hubris. But that is a good thing.

Where's the potential? (2)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 2 years ago | (#37609144)

I get that this is the Nobel prize - but these people appear to have already accomplished something. Indeed, the noteworthy achievement for which they are receiving the prize is over a decade in the past. I thought the Nobel prize was awarded to encourage responsible action? It's a "call to action", not a fuddy duddy pat on the back from the good-old-boys club. Look at the photo at the linked article - three white males. By the way, what the hell is up with "dividing" a Nobel prize like it's some sort of peach pie? Half for one white male, while the other two share the other half? Who comes up with this stuff?

Re:Where's the potential? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37609180)

You might be thinking of the Peace Prize. The scientific ones are awarded for work which has withstood the tests of time. Without checking, I think that to get a Nobel in physics for work done a mere decade ago is unusually fast.

Re:Where's the potential? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37609330)

Is there something wrong with white males? Oh crap, I am a white male. Whats wrong with me?

Re:Where's the potential? (3, Informative)

Guy Harris (3803) | more than 2 years ago | (#37609390)

I get that this is the Nobel prize - but these people appear to have already accomplished something. Indeed, the noteworthy achievement for which they are receiving the prize is over a decade in the past. I thought the Nobel prize was awarded to encourage responsible action?

As noted, this is the Nobel Prize in Physics, which is to be awarded to "the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics" [thelocal.se]

Look at the photo at the linked article - three white males.

OK, fine. Yeah, the physics prize has mostly gone to white males, but there's C. V. Raman [wikipedia.org] (if "Indian" counts as "non-white"), Hideki Yukawa [wikipedia.org] , Tsung-Dao Lee [wikipedia.org] , Chen Ning Yang [wikipedia.org] , Sin-Itiro Tomonaga [wikipedia.org] , Leo Esaki [wikipedia.org] , Samuel C. C. Ting [wikipedia.org] , Abdus Salam (if "Pakistani" counts as "non-white"), Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar [wikipedia.org] (see previous comments), Steven Chu [wikipedia.org] , Daniel C. Tsui [wikipedia.org] , Masatoshi Koshiba [wikipedia.org] , Makoto Kobayashi, Toshihide Maskawa [wikipedia.org] , Yoichiro Nambu [wikipedia.org] , and Charles K. Kao [wikipedia.org] . Oh, yeah, and Marie Skodowska Curie [wikipedia.org] and Maria Goeppert-Mayer [wikipedia.org] .

By the way, what the hell is up with "dividing" a Nobel prize like it's some sort of peach pie? Half for one white male, while the other two share the other half?

Not all "most important [discoveries] or [inventions] within the field of physics" - or any of the other fields for which there are Nobel prizes - can be uniquely credited to one individual. (And sometimes it's split between Asians, or between an Asian and a white guy, or.... :-))

Who comes up with this stuff?

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences [nobelprize.org] . (Hint: you may think that as a random geek with a /. account and an opinion, you're smarter than they all are. That is not necessarily the case. HTH.)

Re:Where's the potential? (3, Interesting)

rgbatduke (1231380) | more than 2 years ago | (#37610464)

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences [nobelprize.org]. (Hint: you may think that as a random geek with a /. account and an opinion, you're smarter than they all are. That is not necessarily the case. HTH.)

OTOH, it might be. As my Ph.D. advisor (Larry Biedenharn, a Nobel wannabe) used to ask me -- "How do you think they choose who gets the award?" Generally I think they do a pretty good job -- they have the same problem as the Oscar committee, they have to reward people for some specific piece of work but some people up are really being proposed (and perhaps occasionally awarded) for a lifetime of many submarginal contributions, so they'll sometimes grant a prize that at first glance seems "odd". But /. readers are a pretty well informed bunch (with a few notable exceptions, don't make me come down there and spank you) and given time to debate to a consensus would probably do just as well.

Your remarks concerning color- and gender- blindness of the committee are dead on the money; the Nobel prize goes to the physics far more than the person, and we absolutely revere physicists of any color or gender who make "great" contributions. In physics especially people just don't really give a damn; brilliance is where you find it. If there is a fault leading to a disparity in the distribution of prizes in physics, it is in the general educational and social system that feeds graduate research programs and beyond -- in the US (and probably Europe) females and certain minorities are still underrepresented in the system in spite of decades (at this point) of active recruiting. However, this really is getting better, and I'd predict that in two more decades will be a non-issue. I've seen a huge shift in the time I've been teaching physics, from having basically one black physics major every decade (first decade) to having black majors every year, including black students who top out the class with the best overall score (in damn difficult classes!). In another decade those students will come online and we'll see prizes headed that way.

Attracting female majors is still behind -- we're still a long way from 50% in the intro-majors classes I've been teaching, more like 20-25% in a good year -- but the ones we're getting are great, I've had women nailing the top THREE slots in intro physics classes total scorewise, and again I think that they are "sticking" and going on to academic careers that will eventually lead to more prizes. Our department has certainly been actively recruiting female and nonwhite faculty -- our current department chair is both female and not white, although we are probably still a decade plus away from parity due to the fact that no matter what it takes time to roll over tenured physics positions and race/gender is only ONE consideration in hiring/recruiting, secondary to competence and ability to fund research and teach and all that.

I won't say that there are no bastions of white maleness out there in physics-land, but I would say that they are a rapidly diminishing population, and that the real place changes need to take place (and are taking place) is elementary school and high school. Physics requires serious math, and there has been an enormous female anti-math social bias entrenched across the teen years forever that is just recently starting to thaw. Math majoring has gotten to where it is very nearly general balanced (still not balanced at the faculty level, though -- the same decadal lag) and I think physics is not far behind as it is now "cool" and socially "feminine" for women to be good at math in high school. I may be dead before things are really level, but my kids won't be. rgb

Re:Where's the potential? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37613548)

"race/gender is only ONE consideration in hiring/recruiting, secondary to competence and ability to fund research and teach and all that."

One might think that it shouldn't come into consideration at all.

Re:Where's the potential? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37613684)

That's all nice and cosy, except for the fact that nobelprize has been fastly devalued because of the outrageous political and other motives behind a succession of winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. They disqualified themselves. I snub their prize events, and they deserve it.

Re:Where's the potential? (2)

TESTNOK (2476330) | more than 2 years ago | (#37610428)

Well, historically, the Nobel prize was instituted by Alfred Nobel to encourage young scientists, as far as I know. And yes, his intention was to made work possible that would not be related to weapons production etc, given his own involvement in developing dynamite - again, this is what I always understood. So that would fall under "responsible action." Over the years, the average age of Nobel Laureates has certainly gone up (I think the youngest ever was 25 years old, in 1915), so that nowadays the prize is more like a lifetime achievement award, and less of a "keep up the good work, young feller-me-lad" pat on the back. Dividing the money is always done when there are more people involved in the research: there is a certain amount per year, and that is awarded, no more, no less. In this year, one of them was the main man of one scientific team, the other two were the leaders of the other team. So it's not so much the person that is being considered, as is the circumstances in which the work is done. Although you do get the money personally, to spend as you like it. The Nobel committee (http://www.nobelprize.org) has interesting statistics available after clicking around some (although that resear will not get you a prize)

Re:Where's the potential? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37611114)

Yeah, go back in time and ask Lise Meitner, she might agree with you.

Re:Where's the potential? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#37611876)

I get that this is the Nobel prize

"...I'm just not clear on what the Nobel Prize actually is."

Re:Where's the potential? (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 2 years ago | (#37613308)

"...I'm just not clear on what the Nobel Prize actually is."

More importantly, how do you cut it in half? A clean laser cut would be an obvious choice, and then you get half a statue or smth. How cool would that be?

A balloon is a bad analogy (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#37609148)

We call it the "Big Bang", but it's not really analogous to a conventional explosion like that. It's not as if the outer perimeter of space is where all the expansion is happening - space itself is expanding. Points in space - stars, planets, galaxies - are moving apart as space expands between them.

Re:A balloon is a bad analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37609884)

I think that you might have misunderstood the balloon analogy. The air inside the balloon is not "space", the balloon itself is. Draw some dots on the balloon and they will move apart when the balloon expands. The balloon will also get thinner, just like space.

Re:A balloon is a bad analogy (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37611326)

The balloon will also get thinner, just like space.

What it the thickness of space? How do you measure it? What happens if space gets thinner?

Re:A balloon is a bad analogy (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 2 years ago | (#37609896)

A balloon is actually one of the best analogies anyone's been able to come up with, it just gets explained badly. A balloon is a great analogy because the (2D) *surface* of the balloon acts the same way as the (3D) universe does. Expansion with no centre and everything moving away from everything else. That's why the balloon analogy is used so often and then mangled and misunderstood.

Re:A balloon is a bad analogy (1)

asifyoucare (302582) | more than 2 years ago | (#37609952)

I'm probably showing my ignorance, but how do we know that the observable universe is the whole universe? What if the Big Bang, was just one of a very large number of 'local' bangs. If these other universes were far enough away, say a billion billion billion diameters of this universe, would there be any way to detect them?

If this is a possible scenario it might eliminate the conundrum of how the universe sprang into existence from nothing all those billions (but still a finite number) of years ago. A re-collapsing universe would also eliminate the conundrum, but it looks as if that is now ruled out.

Re:A balloon is a bad analogy (2)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 2 years ago | (#37610072)

"how do we know that the observable universe is the whole universe?"

We don't and it almost certainly isn't; certainly, I doubt many people seriously believe it is.

"What if the Big Bang, was just one of a very large number of 'local' bangs."

Something very close to this idea lies at the heart of "chaotic inflation" which is still pretty much the most widely-used version of inflationary theory. It's occasionally described as a "seething foam of spacetime" with little bubbles popping up through quantum fluctuations eveywhere, and some of them having the right conditions inside to inflate, making another universe.

"If these other universes were far enough away, say a billion billion billion diameters of this universe, would there be any way to detect them? "

Not directly. Indirectly, it would depend on the details of the theory that produced them.

"A re-collapsing universe would also eliminate the conundrum, but it looks as if that is now ruled out."

Why do you say that? Again, it's very dependent on the details of the theory. You might be referring to the Gurzadyan and Penrose papers that were rubbished quite recently. The theory is basically fine, so far as anyone's aware; Penrose hasn't actually published the details for how it all works, but it's a nice enough mathematical trick. (Basically, once everything including black holes has decayed to radiation there's precious little difference between the ultimate future and the ultimate past, so conditions are right for more fluctuations that trigger another big bang. Or something like that. Details are hard to come by.) The problem was the analysis of the CMB - more specifically, the interpretation of that analysis. Find a different prediction from Penrose's model and it'll still be viable to test it. The same goes for any other cyclic model.

Re:A balloon is a bad analogy (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37611376)

Not directly. Indirectly, it would depend on the details of the theory that produced them.

Theories now can produce universes?

Re:A balloon is a bad analogy (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 2 years ago | (#37611440)

Given that the entire topic of other "universes" is totally and utterly theoretical, yes. (In a manner of speaking, of course.)

Re:A balloon is a bad analogy (1)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37610194)

I like the expanding foam analogy. Like that crap in a can. If teo particles exist in the foam they move away from each other and everything else as the foam expands.

Re:A balloon is a bad analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37611158)

I like the expanding foam analogy. Like that crap in a can. If teo particles exist in the foam they move away from each other and everything else as the foam expands.

...sort of like the surface of a balloon!

Gold sticker (2)

Solandri (704621) | more than 2 years ago | (#37609154)

Cute quote from from Adam Riess [reuters.com] :

Riess, who was still in his 20s when the groundbreaking research was published, said he told his daughter, 7, that winning the Nobel prize was "like getting a great big gold sticker on your homework."

Re:Gold sticker (1)

Moskit (32486) | more than 2 years ago | (#37610748)

What's the "gold sticker on homework"?
Is it a local USA (where Riess lives) expression, like "homerun"?

(no, not troll, trying to understand what's this about)

Re:Gold sticker (1)

ImprovOmega (744717) | more than 2 years ago | (#37612992)

In America when kids do well on something they're rewarded with a token that, while of little monetary worth, is intended to bolster their self esteem. Said child will often show this token off with pride to their parents. One such method is affix a gold-colored star on the front of a homework assignment for a job well done.

Here Riess is attributing similar affirmation of his work by the broader scientific community, which is of much more worth to him as a scientist than the monetary reward. Also, he is explaining it in a way a 7 year old will understand.

Patents (2)

Stellian (673475) | more than 2 years ago | (#37609466)

It seems so often in the scientific world that two teams come to make the same discovery simultaneously. More often than not the next logical step in a field is dictated by the global advancement in that and other fields, and not the individual genius of the author. Many times ideas are ripe for the picking, if you are one of the very smart working on them. Hence the large number of joint discoveries or teams that supplement each other's results despite being in competition.

Completely off-topic, but I can't stop from making a parallel with the patent world. I expect this manner of scientific advancement to translate to technical creations too. The basis of the patent system is that rewarding the author will stimulate creativity. But one cannot wonder how many of really smart inventions wouldn't have been invented anyway, or indeed have been invented simultaneously by someone else when their time had come.

In the extreme, it's clear that a system that devotes a large proportion of the resources of society to reward the inventors in one that stimulates creativity. However that stimulus is not without his costs. The large legal ecosystem surrounding the patent system is a high consumer of those resources dedicated to inventors. Businesses have to devote important resources to ensure that are not infringing, instead of simply strive to create the best product possible. The exclusivity period is an economic disturbance, the large license fee an inventor might require for his revolutionary invention might not be earned if the same invention would have been made anyway in a year or two from the original filling date. The public key cryptography algos come to mind.

Note that I'm talking about smart, revolutionary patents. I think we can agree that the bulk of patents don't fit that category and cost the society more than they bring. Well, I'm upping the ante and question if even the smart patents really cover their costs for society. Because if most of the smart ones would have been discovered anyway in a year or two, maybe we can get rid of the patent system for good. Sure, some smart ones would remain uninvented even after the 20 years period without the stimulus of a financial prize. But I argue they would be few and far between, their opportunity cost much smaller than what we are collectively spending on the patent system.

dark energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37609616)

Even if my understanding of dark matter is the equivalent of the Bohr Atom I can at least make some sort of sense of it. Dark energy OTOH is totally alien and incomprehensible... I mean energy still can't just be created right? If so there must be some reservoir that its being drawn from and if not it seems like lots of our basic ideas about how stuff works must be wrong.

Re:dark energy (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37611470)

Dark energy is just "we don't know what happens, but if we insert this term into our equations, it works."

Re:dark energy (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#37612452)

Dark energy is "we observe this phenomenon, therefore we must insert a term into our equations that accounts for it, even if we do not yet have a physical understanding of its nature".

Old News ... (1)

Shadow Geek (825083) | more than 2 years ago | (#37609740)

Was reading that 'its expansion is speeding up', but I also read a document from 1972. How can they get a Nobel Prize for old news ? Here is a part of 'Siloism' (first published in Santiago de Chile, 1972). "c) Origin of the Universe. Light converged upon itself and this gave place to the surging of dense energetic and material expressions. This was the stage of the "fall of the light." This provoked the original explosion, and from this centre, radiation and mass of igneous matter expanded at increasing speeds. In this way, what began to take shape as nebulae, galaxies, suns, planets and moons of different systems, continues its acceleration whilst it moves from its original centre, leaving spiralled cycles in its wake. As these bodies move away they begin to return to their origin due to their curved trajectory, whilst they accelerate and approximate the speed of light. Finally, all bodies will end up transforming their matter into radiant energy and this energy will be converted into light. In addition, from every direction of the curved space this light will convex upon one centre in order to produce a new creative explosion. In synthesis: Light is eternal, it is the origin and the end of the Universe. It is of no interest here to study the processes of densification, nor, inversely, those of increasing vibration of matter, anti-matter, and energy. It suffices to say that these are three expressions of the same principle, that each of them can turn into light and vice versa."

Re:Old News ... (2)

rgbatduke (1231380) | more than 2 years ago | (#37610598)

Finally, all bodies will end up transforming their matter into radiant energy and this energy will be converted into light. In addition, from every direction of the curved space this light will convex upon one centre in order to produce a new creative explosion. In synthesis: Light is eternal, it is the origin and the end of the Universe. It is of no interest here to study the processes of densification, nor, inversely, those of increasing vibration of matter, anti-matter, and energy. It suffices to say that these are three expressions of the same principle, that each of them can turn into light and vice versa.

It is absolutely true that some of the anomalies that are not being interpreted as dark matter/dark energy have been around (observationally) for a long time, but the Universe is big and making accurate measurements on a macro scales hasn't even been possible until fairly recent times. The observations now are simply reaching the point where they strongly suggest if not demand new physics to explain them, the floor is now open for theories that consistently describe the new phenomena and still explain the old phenomena as well.

However, this mish-mosh you are quoting is not science. There is no evidence for a prior state "fall of light" -- the BB erased all useful details of prior state, although with empirically confirmed predictive quantitative theories we might eventually be able to extrapolate our post-BB observations into knowledge of prior state. The problem is a difficult one, though -- sort of like expecting to be able to read the manufacturing stickers off of a thermonuclear device from the mass and energy distribution visible from a certain direction from far, far away, long after the blast. Furthermore, all of the other stuff in this post, about moving away and returning on curved trajectories and all of that -- I don't know what all of that means. Nobody does. The English (or Spanish) words are meaningless, impossible to compare to observational reality, impossible to verify or refute with experiment.

What might mean something is a specific mathematical model that can be shown to be completely consistent with known physics and existing observational evidence and that describes the deviations from four-force model gravitationally bound galaxies in a quantitatively consistent way. That actually would mean something, and would even be compelling. It is also what is (AFAIK) completely lacking at this point, although there are a few very crude models that can provide some degree of qualitative agreement. As far as I know, there is no physical principle or law of nature that suggests that all matter will ``turn into light'' at any point in the future time evolution of the known interactions. I would go so far as to say that this is more or less impossible, in fact. What is an electron going to turn into that conserves charge, spin, and so on? Even theorized finite lifetimes of protons are finite but so very, very large that they can be consistent with the fact that we have never, so far, observed a proton to decay. The null hypothesis that they don't decay is so far a tenable one; although I wouldn't be surprised if somebody salted the tail of one tomorrow, a good theory isn't the measure of truth or knowledge, reliable observation is.

Without such a quantitative, predictive, empirically verified mathematical model, flowery words are just quasi-religious bullshit and in some deep sense have no place in physics. They smack of "Maharishi physics" or the kind of crap that you can see in "Down the Rabbit Hole" or "Multiple Worlds Quantum Theory" (so far).

rgb

Ha ha! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37610320)

Once again, October comes and S. L. Wu is sad. And I am therefore happy. (You HEP types know what I'm talking about. Stick it to the Man!)

Saul Perlmutter (1)

Danny Rathjens (8471) | more than 2 years ago | (#37611040)

Saul was heard to mutter "for my $supernova ( @supernovae ) { alarm if q($supernova) 0 }"

Re:Saul Perlmutter (1)

Danny Rathjens (8471) | more than 2 years ago | (#37611146)

oops, was just being silly anyway, but lost the > due to html and shouldn't override q// ;)
"for my $supernova ( @supernovae ) { alarm if measure_q($supernova) > 0 }"

Re:Saul Perlmutter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37614782)

measure_q($_) > 0 and alarm for @supernovae;

(preview shows > so I hope it stays)

A Brief History of Time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37611870)

It's been quite a few years (and I don't know where my copy is at the moment), but I could have sworn that Stephen Hawking's book A Brief History of Time already touched on this. (I could be thinking of another book, but it was definitely more than 13 years ago.)

Please stop repeating the myth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37612236)

Re: In essence, they proved that Einstein's 'biggest mistake' (the cosmological constant, to create a 'stable universe') was actually a clever theoretical prediction that there was something else happening — dark energy."

Will people please stop repeating the myth that Einstein's cosmological constant was some kind of prediction? It was exactly what Einstein said it was --- a very embarrassing mistake Einstein made trying to prop up his personal "religious-like" belief that the universe was eternal, constant, and unchanging. The fact that we now theorize that "dark energy" is causing the universe to expand at an ever greater rate is EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of the reason Einstein proposed the cosmological constant -- he proposed it to explain how the universe WASN'T EXPANDING OR CONTRACTING.

And don't get my started on the "butterfly effect" (that a butterfly fluttering in Asia could cause a hurricane in America). Edward Lorenz who proposed it was, like so many scientists, pretty naive about computer programming. All his work showed was that climate models changed dramatically depending on the numeric precision one used to compute the model -- something any decent computer programmer knows all too well nowadays. He misunderstood that to mean a small change could have a large effect. People still repeat that myth too.

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