Dark energy wins science’s “breakthrough of year” award for 2003, as reported in Science, vol 302, p2038 19 Dec 2003, and New Scientist 20 Dec 2003, p16. Over recent years cosmologists have come up with the “concordance” model of the universe, claiming it consists of “73% dark energy (nature unknown), 23% cold dark matter (nature unknown”) and 4% ordinary matter.” The “ordinary matter” is the only part that can be actually seen and measured. Dark energy and cold dark matter cannot be observed or measured but they are assumed to exist in order to explain some strange observations that don’t fit the Big Bang theory. Dark energy was first postulated in the late 1990s when scientists using the apparent brightness of some supernovas to measure the rate of expansion of the universe came to the conclusion that it was accelerating, when they expected the gravitational force of galaxies and other objects in the universe to be slowing it down. To explain the apparent acceleration they invoked an anti-gravity force called “dark energy” that was driving the galaxies apart at an ever increasing rate. In 2003 scientists compared data from a survey of cosmic microwave radiation and another a survey of distant galaxies and claimed their results confirmed the existence of dark energy. However, not all astronomers are convinced. According to a report from BBC News 18 Dec 2003 astronomers measured the x-ray emissions from distant galaxy clusters and concluded there was “a lot of matter in the universe and that leaves little room for dark energy.”

Editorial Comment: The assumption that the universe is expanding is based on the red shift of light coming from objects far out in space. This is assumed to be due to the Doppler effect, i.e. stretching of light waves emitted from a moving source as it moves away from the observer. However, red shift can also be explained by a decrease in the speed of light from objects that are far away, but not accelerating away from us. If this is true there is no need for any mysterious gravity defying dark energy. For a more detailed explanation of red shift and the energy in the universe see “The Red Shift and the Zero Point Energy” by Barry Setterfield and Daniel Dzimano, Journal of Theoretics, 29 Dec 2003. PDF here.