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Cosmological Conundrum


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This is an article I cut and pasted from the October 18, 2002 Science Journal in the Wall Street Journal.

The Wall Street Journal requires a paid subscription for access and because of the article's compelling subject matter I wanted to share it with everyone.





'Scientists Seek 'Dark Energy' That's Filling In the Universe'

__________________________________________________________The creative bookkeeping at some accounting-challenged firms is nothing compared with what cosmologists must do to balance the universe's ledgers. But thanks to their efforts to make the numbers come out right, these scientists have stumbled on an improbable coincidence: The amount of a mysterious energy that seems to pervade the cosmos is precisely what is needed to allow for the emergence of stars, planets and life itself.

The road to this revelation began in the 1990s, when it became clear that most of the cosmos is AWOL. According to observations of majestically swirling galaxies, the universe is filled with "missing mass," or matter that betrays its presence in the motions of galaxies but that not even the most powerful telescopes can spy. It seems to exist in some exotic, nonluminous form different from the protons, neutrons and electrons in ordinary matter.

Talk about humbling. The matter that makes up our planet, our star and our very selves is an anomaly, perhaps a mere afterthought on the part of creation, accounting for just 5% of the mass-energy of the universe. The shadow world of dark matter makes up 25%. (Or as a popular T-shirt says, "If it isn't dark, it doesn't matter.") Until about three years ago, no one had a clue what the other 70% might be.

In 1998, observations of exploding supernovas hinted that cosmic expansion has been speeding up lately. As astronomer Robert Kirshner of Harvard University describes in his witty new book, "The Extravagant Universe": That "dropped a bombshell right at the epicenter of cosmology." Suddenly, cosmologists had more hidden stuff to contend with. Says physicist Patrick Greene of Fermilab in Batavia, Ill., "This was compelling evidence that there must be some kind of dark energy, a repulsive energy that makes the expansion of the universe accelerate."

Dark energy was the biggest single quarry for the cosmologists and physicists at last month's Cosmo-02 meeting at Chicago's Adler Planetarium. Dark energy "is the most exciting development in physics now," physicist Andreas Albrecht of the University of California at Davis said. "Observations are driving us to think about things we never have." Their creativity in explaining dark energy, he went on, reflects that "some of us have inhaled and some of us haven't."

How much dark energy might be out there? In 1999, measurements of the afterglow of the Big Bang (in which the universe began) supported an old hunch that the cosmos has just the right density to keep it perfectly balanced between (as Robert Frost put it) ending in fire or ice.

Too high a density, and all of creation collapses back in a fiery Big Crunch; too low and the universe expands forever, until all the stars twinkle out in an icy death. But at one ideal density -- call it 100% -- the universal expansion will slow yet never halt. Since matter seems to make up 30% of this density, that leaves 70% to exist in the form of the enigmatic dark energy.

At Cosmo-02, most bets for the source of the dark energy were on what Einstein termed a "cosmological constant." This is a long-range force that acts as a sort of antigravity, and which he reluctantly introduced into his equations of general relativity in 1917 to make them agree with the observation that the universe is static. With the 1929 discovery that the universe is expanding, Einstein called the constant his biggest blunder, and it skulked off the physics scene.

The cosmological constant must have a new agent, because it's now superstar hot, a leading candidate for the repulsive force that generates th

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Tormod is correct.

It was no one less than Albert Einstein who said,"There's no science without religion and no religion without science" meaning they are not mutually exclusive and they both have a place in our (collective) consciousness in helping humanity (at least attempt to) grapple with the unfathomable incomprehensibility of it all.


The topic of 'God', a god as supreme being who created the cosmos by 'willing' it into existence has been overwhelmingly and ferociously debated ever since the very first spark of conciousness began to emerge within the embryonic brain of our pre-historic ancestors, as they first gazed into the night sky struggling throughout the ages to come to terms with the awe-inspiring profundity and meaning of it all.


The discussion of whether or not there is a supreme creator is not the place of this forum or the HYPOGRAPHY site in general, nevertheless,the subject of a supreme creator deserves to be addressed here not the least of which because it occupies such an overwhelmingly prominent position within the history of mankind and our very lives, down to the very core of what is our consciousness and basis for our social values and mores.


I do not subscribe to the concept of a God or a supreme creator and don't see how it is possible for any sort of an accomodation between the empirical, scientific realm and those of a meta-physical, philosophical perspective.


I have often wondered what it is that makes people want to believe in a supreme being and only recently came up with a fulfilling, satisfying explanation.


There is an overwhelming need within us to be in control, first and foremost to resolve the mysteries of the world driven by our unquenchable intellectual curiosity and will seek out any sort of explanation however implausible in an attempt to satisfy our inherent 'need to know' as we have demonstrated time and again throughout history.


It is much simpler,easier and comforting to believe in a supreme being however ridiculous and illogical it may seem towards resolving the unfathomable incomprehensibility of our very lives and all that ever was and will ever be,sort of like a philosophical "Occam's Razor" or 'spiritual placebo' if you will, than to accept the harsh reality of our mortality or abandon the smug arrogance and sense of superiority that religion provides in the divine pomposity of a geo-centric universe or to even try grasping the infinite scientific complexity as the basis for everything there is.


Furthermore, mankind in his all-consuming egotistical vanity and inability to accept his own mortality has had to invent the concept of a supreme being in an effort to allay the fears of the unknown towards perpetuating his fervent hopes for eternal existence through the creation and guise of a 'Supreme Being'. As the clever saying goes, "God did not create Man,Man created God" (to suit his own selfish needs).


We have discovered that the universe in which we live in is infinitely more complex and enigmatic than we can ever imagine and defies a simple 'easy-to-understand' explanation of all that there is, which unnerves and disturbs many people who would rather ascribe 'God' to be the be-all-and-end-all to everything and thus unburden themselves from the need to deal with it all.


While believing in a supreme being may be tautologically

absurd,nevertheless it is a much simpler,comforting belief to those that feel they need something greater than themselves to lead a productive,fulfilling existence and in bringing meaning to their lives.

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  • 2 weeks later...

To those who have been with us from the very first 'Cosmological Conundrum' post all the way throughout our entire journey of discovery of the universe and of the very cosmos itself your patience and interest have been rewarded with what I believe are two of the very best most interesting and informative cosmological links I have yet seen.


First off is a fantastic site called 'Atlas of the Universe' that not only provides the clearest most concise explanation on some of the most enigmatic aspects of the universe,it features these really cool 3D-like star/galaxy maps that you can zoom in and out from our local star neighborhood vicinity of just 12.5 light years from the sun all the way up to a billion times further away with a mind-boggling 15 Billion light-year map of the (so far) known universe! Really Cool!


Atlas of the Universe




This web page is designed to give everyone an idea of what our universe actually looks like. There are nine main maps on this web page, each one approximately ten times the scale of the previous one. The first map shows the nearest stars and then the other maps slowly expand out until we have reached the scale of the entire visible universe.

12.5 Light Years from the Sun

The Nearest Stars

The closest star to the Sun is a mere 7000 times further than the edge of our solar system. This map shows all of the stellar systems that lie within 12.5 light years from us.

250 Light Years from the Sun

The Solar Neighbourhood

A large proportion of the stars visible with the naked eye are within 250 light years. This map shows this tiny section of our galaxy that surrounds our Sun.

5000 Light Years from the Sun

The Orion Arm

The local arm of our galaxy is called the Orion Arm. It is depicted here showing the millions of stars interspersed with clouds of interstellar gas.

50000 Light Years from the Sun

The Milky Way Galaxy

Our galaxy is a loose spiral disc of two hundred billion stars rotating around a compact centre. This is a diagram showing the main features of the Galaxy.

500000 Light Years from the Sun

The Satellite Galaxies

The Milky Way is surrounded by several dwarf galaxies slowly orbiting it in periods of billions of years. This map shows the nearest such satellite galaxies.

5 million Light Years from the Sun

The Local Group

The Milky Way is gravitationally bound to two other large spiral galaxies as well as dozens of dwarf galaxies. This local group of galaxies is illustrated here.

100 million Light Years from the Sun

The Virgo Supercluster

The local group of galaxies is just one of many centred around the massive Virgo Cluster. Collectively, all of these groups and clusters form a unit known as the Virgo Supercluster shown here.

1 billion Light Years from the Sun

The Neighbouring Superclusters

The distribution of galaxies in the universe is far from regular. They tend to clump together into huge supercluster formations. This map shows many of the superclusters within 1 billion light years of us.

15 billion Light Years from the Sun

The Visible Universe

Although our knowledge of the large scale structure of the universe is incomplete, many large and small scale features are visible right out to the very edge of the visible universe. The entire universe is fairly uniform, as this map shows.


The following article is the latest most up-to-date cosmological overview and perspective EVER featured in the New York Times October 29,2002 and of course prominently displayed on the HOME PAGE of the best most fascinating science site in this or any other universe, HYPOGRAPHY, where we always keep you up on the very latest cutting edge scientific discoveries and information available!


And,indeed, in keeping our highly informed members up on the very latest from the widest possible spectrum of scientific fields and topics available, those of you who have gone through all of the posts in this forum will have already read and been fa

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