Always trying to shed some light on a dark subject

Well, now we’re finally getting somewhere. Science has verified, as much as it ever does, that there is such a thing as “dark energy.” This is important because apparently I have confused “dark energy” with “daylight saving time” for years. 

According to my way of thinking, if there are forces that attract things to each other, like gravity, then there must be some form of “repulsion” that pushes things away. Otherwise, everything would collapse on itself.

I’ve found, however, that investigating repulsion is not as easy as it might sound. 

At some level, I’ve assumed repulsion was because of my personality, but I’ve had no way to prove it. With an attraction, Newton showed that there were laws governing how things attract each other.

However, the general consequences of gravity are not always appreciated. If all material objects of the universe are pulled toward each other, it doesn’t take much to figure out that all this attraction of objects is going to lead to a massive collapse, and we’re all going to be crushed to smithereens!

Smithereens is a technical term for particles smaller than 10-29 nanometers, plus or minus 3 nanometers.

Thankfully, we all know that gravity won’t be causing such destruction.

In fact, all the objects in the universe appear to be flying apart at great speed. Edwin Hubble proved this by looking at distant stars in other galaxies. The light these stars emitted has a characteristic “redshift.” Because the object is moving away from us, the light waves are lengthened into the red spectrum. 

The idea of an expanding universe has always disturbed me just a little.

I mean, if the universe is expanding, what is it expanding into? Wouldn’t the space it is expanding into be a part of the universe?

What is the space beyond the universe we are expanding into?

No wonder I became a biologist instead of a physicist. 

Cosmologists now tell us that, not only is the material universe expanding outward, it is doing so at a faster and faster pace.

If this is true, then space must also be expanding, at least at a pace as fast as the objects of the universe are flying apart.

So, what does space expand into? Ha! Got you with that one, didn’t I?

The only possible explanation I can think of seems to be that there must be an energy that is pushing space apart to accommodate the expanding material of the universe.

So maybe that’s it. Space is expanding into space.

“Dark energy” is apparently that repulsion that is pushing space apart faster than gravity can pull matter altogether.

Based on the observed rate of expansion, scientists estimate that the sum of all the dark energy must make up more than 70 percent of the total contents of the universe.

If 70 percent of space is “dark energy,” is “dark energy” less than space? 

Even more confusing, Einstein said matter doesn’t become energy until it exceeds the speed of light squared.

Since “dark energy” is energy, does that mean that “dark energy” must be anti-matter moving faster than the speed of light squared? 

If there is a great wall out there somewhere, imagine what it would be like to be able to stop a universe moving at faster than the speed of light. That collision would make one cosmic skid mark!

Oh, and another thing, if energy becomes matter below the speed of light squared, what does space become when it slows below the speed of light squared? 

This has all been tremendously enlightening to me, although more than a little confusing.

In the past, I have always thought that “dark energy” was what I was experiencing every year between November and March during daylight saving time.

It’s dark, and I have no energy. What would you call it?

But that particular phenomenon comes to a crashing halt this weekend.

Spring forward!

I just hope that space and the universe keep on expanding. 

Gary McCallister, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), is a professor emeritus of biological sciences at Colorado Mesa University.


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