It's a bad day when 150 years of what everyone accepted as known must be tossed into the dust bin.
That day may have arrived for cosmologists and their construct of the nature of the universe. At least Edmund Schluessel of Cardiff University thinks so, or maybe not.
Expansion and dark energy
Physics, even astrophysics, is grounded on the observation and calculation of thousands of scientists over the centuries. Two who are bedrocks of the foundation of the science are Sir Isaac Newton and Alfred Einstein. Their work, along with other hallowed saints of science like Hubble, Huygens and more, helped lay the groundwork for all modern physics including cosmology.
Two of the most important theories that drives cosmology are the universe has the same physical laws throughout creation, and the acceleration of the universe can be explained by a mysterious force called dark energy.
Since the inception of dark energy—proposed as the reason why the universe continues to accelerate outward like an infinitely expanding balloon—there have been problems with the hypothesis.
Perhaps the biggest problem is no one has been able to prove dark energy exists.
Although an inelegant solution to the riddle of expansion, it's been the best answer…until now.
Just as the universe inflates, Schluessel may be about to deflate the theory of dark energy and the cosmological principle that the universe is the same everywhere and the same physical laws apply.
For many years, astrophysicists have accepted evidence that some regions of the observable universe exhibited anomalies that didn't quite fit into the accepted view of the cosmos, no matter how much the math was stretched to cover the oddities. One concern is new observations that seem to indicate part of the universe expansion is inflating faster in one section than another.
Physicists have dubbed one particularly anomalous region of asymmetrical expansion "the axis of evil." And evil it could be, at least for scientists, because if that region holds the proof that the universe is not uniform and different physical laws can apply to different regions of space, then the basic cosmological perception of universe may be wrong. The laws of physics wouldn't be the same everywhere.
And that would be huge. But what could account for the inflation then?
Edmund Schluessel may have the answer.
Schluessel's view of the cosmos
Science is measured by the progress of inquisitive minds unafraid to accept a new truth if proven by careful observation and experimentation. Schluessel knows this in his bones and it's how he's approached astrophysics all his life.
He believes the answer to the riddle of the anomalous space is gravity waves. Those waves can cause massive disturbances in spacetime, but are difficult to detect. Current models of gravitational waves present them as having relatively short wavelengths, but Schluessel argues that's wrong. The gravity waves, he says, are huge—as big as 10 billion light-years across.
The waves were likely propagated by the Big Bang and are still moving through the universe like a speeding tidal wave crossing the sea from one continent to another. Even now, billions of years after the creation of the cosmos, they are still moving through the universe.
The waves, he points out, could affect observation of distant objects, distort the otherwise constant background of cosmic microwave emissions, and even make the universe seem to be inflating asymmetrically when it's not.
The idea is that these waves would be big enough to disrupt our observation of the distant universe, but they would still be too weak for us to easily observe them directly. Waves of this magnitude could distort the cosmic microwave background, he argues, and it could even throw off the light of distant objects to make the universe appear to be accelerating when, in fact, it isn't.
If he's right, it solves the puzzle with one elegant, simple solution. Often the true nature of things have the simplest solution.
But if he's wrong…well, then much of what science thinks it knows about the principles and properties of the universe will have to be scrapped.
Read more about gigantic gravitational waves here.
Read more about the theory of dark energy.