October 5, 2008 | David F. Coppedge

Dark Energy May Be an Optical Illusion

Cosmologists can get rid of the burden of their worst imponderable substance, dark energy, if they are willing to jettison the Copernican Principle.  Science Daily reported thinking by a team of Oxford physicists who make the apparent acceleration of the universe an artifact of our viewing position.  When distant galaxies are viewed without the assumption that earth occupies no privileged position, dark energy becomes unnecessary.
    How radical is this suggestion?  It replaces one outrageous belief with one even more so: “Although dark energy may seem a bit contrived to some, the Oxford theorists are proposing an even more outrageous alternative,” the article said.  “They point out that it’s possible that we simply live in a very special place in the universe – specifically, we’re in a huge void where the density of matter is particularly low.  The suggestion flies in the face of the Copernican Principle, which is one of the most useful and widely held tenets in physics.”  This suggestion may “shock many scientists.”  The Oxford team hopes to test the idea.  See also the 03/15/2008 story about another team that called the Copernican Principle into question.

It’s always error-prone to try to rescue a theory with ad hoc appeals to imponderable substances.  The Oxford team may be off the wall, but their off-the-wallness is only a matter of degree from the consensus theory of dark energy.  This article also points out that astronomers don’t know as much as they claim they do.  The uniform distribution of matter and the Copernican Principle are shown to be assumptions – not observations.

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Categories: Cosmology

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