092 – Dr Brian Schmidt – The acceleration of the universe

We’ve all wondered about the creation of the universe – from the big bang onwards. What next? Is the galaxy going to slow down from the big bang? Will there be multiple big bangs and big crunches? The reality of the matter is astounding. In 1994, Dr Brian Schmidt, along with some colleagues from around the world, found that the universe is far more fascinating and unexpected than we thought. Not only is the universe expanding, but it is also accelerating!

I talk to Dr Schmidt about this expansion. Topics we talk about include:

– How was this discovered?
– What could be causing the acceleration?
– How the cosmological constant relates to this
– What effects do we observe from dark energy and dark matter?
– How does this relate to zero-point energy?
– With the speeding up expansion of the universe, what will this mean to us as humans?
– What would science look like if we began our civilisation about 100 billion years into the future? Would cosmology be as we know it today?
– What is the future of cosmology research?
– Baryone acoustic oscillations
– Is there a relationship between dark energy and dark matter?

Also featured is the listener of the episode, and listener feedback.

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One Comment to “092 – Dr Brian Schmidt – The acceleration of the universe”

  1. Steven Athearn Says:

    In terms of evidence for and against the Big Bang, it should be said, though usually isn’t, that the discovery of “dark energy” surely belongs in the minus column. Why do we need one kind of process (the Big Bang) to set the thing in motion, and another (Dark Energy) to keep it going? Perhaps it is a testament to the inelegance of current ideas in cosmology that not many seem fazed by this additional inelegance.

    Everyone agrees that Einstein introduced his cosmological constant for an ad hoc purpose, and was never very happy with it for that very reason. This contrasts with another theory first published fifty years ago, where an explanation for the recently observed acceleration comes right out of the theory’s most basic premises. In Dewey Larson’s universe of motion, gravitation is simply a motion in opposition to what he called the “space-time progression,” which tends to carry objects outward from one another at unit velocity (the speed of light: one natural unit of space per natural unit of time). “What makes for the variety that we have in the universe is that the two motions do not respond to distance in the same way” (quoting Larson from memory): the progression has a constant magnitude, whereas the gravitational motion, originating at the points that particles happen to occupy, and distributed three-dimensionally, attenuates with distance. At macroscopic distances within the “gravitational limit” (corresponding to an object’s mass), the gravitational motion is the greater, and the net motion is toward other objects; at the gravitational limit the two motions are in equality (though not equilibrium, since any imbalance becomes accentuated); beyond this point, objects experience accelerating recessive motion, reaching the full speed of light at the “second gravitational limit.”

    Notice that on the basis of these simple premises, applied to the recession of the distant galaxies, there can be no expectation that gravity should be slowing down the recession; such an expectation could only arise from a kind of double counting of the gravitational effect. Yet this was exactly the expectation of researchers working within generally accepted theory.

    Incidentally, according to Larson, “Hubble’s constant” is not constant but rather a function of the mass of the aggregate from which the observations are made, and is entirely without significance for estimating the age of the universe. (See Ronald W. Satz, “Calculation of the Gravitational Limits and the Hubble Constant for the Local Group” at http://transpower.wordpress.com/?s=calculation+of+the+hubble )

    Dr. Schmidt notes that “the only effect that we’ve so far been able to come up with that dark energy has, observable in the universe, is the acceleration.” In Larson’s system, by contrast, the space-time progression also explains why it is impossible (not merely unlikely) for individual stars (or multiple star systems) to collide with one another, and why globular clusters with little rotational motion do not collapse into one mass: the component stars (or multiple star systems) are all outside one another’s gravitational limits and hence tending to move away from one another; the gravitational control of the larger aggregate of which they are part holds them in place in a liquid-like equilibrium. At least some mainstream theorists are beginning to think along these lines, though without the detailed articulation that Larson gave the subject: Sebastien Balibar, in The Atom and the Apple, for example, suggests that dark energy “tends to push the stars away from one another.”

    Dr. Schmidt proposed that there is “very little” dark energy in the room in which the interview was conducted. Larson would beg to differ. In the framework of Larson’s Reciprocal System, this time with great quantitative detail and long-standing proposals for further experimental tests, the same two forces account for solid cohesion and compressibility: within unit distance, the space-time progression, always away from unity, provides the inward force, while gravitation, always opposing the progression, provides the resistance to compression. (Note that this involves rejection of the electrical theory of cohesion, and supplies the needed opposing force that conventional theory lacks.)

    As Larson occasionally noted, individual scientists cannot be faulted for not wanting to spend their own time coming to terms with new theoretical proposals. I’m not sure, however, that this excuse applies very well to the researchers involved with “dark energy,” whether observers or theoreticians, given the existing glaring theoretical deficiencies. Larson concluded one of his essays with this quotation from John Wheeler: “…the present situation calls for a certain daring in considering and testing new ideas.” (See http://library.rstheory.org/articles/Larson/JustHowMuch.html )

    “Unfortunately … my basic conclusions are in conflict not merely with one but with a number of generally accepted ideas and this complicates my situation to a very considerable degree…. In my opinion it is desirable that I should confine my initial explanations to individual items which can be readily separated from the main body of the work and described without introducing too many of these controversial subjects…. In line with this thought I am not presenting my compressibility equation in ‘full form’ with its underlying theoretical justification at this time, but instead am submitting it as an accurate and useful semi-empirical relationship, in which status it has considerable practical value independent of the legitimacy of its theoretical ancestry…. Such reference as I may make to the theoretical development in the meantime is purely for background information, and I am including it because I believe it is rather significant that this equation which fits the experimental data so well is not the result of a mathematical cut and try operation but of a theoretical relationship derived from consideration of totally different physical phenomena…. The significant fact which emerged from the theoretical analysis is that only one of the forces entering into the equilibrium, the one in the outward direction, has any resemblance to our usual concept of inter-atomic forces. _The inward force is a force of constant magnitude_.” [Underlined in original.]
    –Dewey Larson, letter to Linus Pauling, July 19, 1952


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