Einstein 'blunder' proving correct

April 3, 2012 at 4:01 PM
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BALTIMORE, April 3 (UPI) -- New observations support a theory of Albert Einstein's about the expansion of the universe he once considered his "biggest blunder," U.S. astronomers say.

Findings from a cosmic survey measuring the distance to remote galaxies suggest that the mysterious "dark energy" thought to cause the universe to expand at an accelerating rate was correctly predicted by Einstein, the researchers said.

Assuming the universe existed in a static state, Einstein added a term he called the "cosmological constant" to his theory of general relativity, but when the universe was later discovered to be expanding he called the constant his "biggest blunder."

Now his cosmological constant, which assumed a repulsive force occupying all of space, has been invoked to explain the discovery that not only is the universe expanding but also the rate of that expansion is accelerating.

Results from a project known as the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey of distant galaxies are consistent with dark energy described by Einstein's cosmological constant, ScienceNews.org reported Tuesday.

"At this stage, we are all trying to fire bullets at the cosmological constant," said Adam Riess of Johns Hopkins University, who shared the Nobel Prize in physics last year for the discovery of the universe's accelerated expansion. "It is a pretty sharp bullet when you are making measurements that are more precise than ever before."

Within the next few years the precision of the dark energy measurements should increase by a factor of 100, he said, and while such measurements won't be final proof of Einstein's theory, they would be hard to argue with.

"I think most people will say uncle after this factor 100 improvement," Riess said.

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