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Science

2011 Nobel Prize In Physics 119

Posted by Soulskill
from the magnets-how-do-they-work dept.
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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2011 Nobel Prize In Physics

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  • Dark energy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lazykoala (2477144) on Wednesday October 05, 2011 @01:34AM (#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:CERN (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05, 2011 @01:41AM (#37609032)

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

  • Re:Dark energy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Wednesday October 05, 2011 @03:06AM (#37609414) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by Bootsy Collins (549938) on Wednesday October 05, 2011 @06:40AM (#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.

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