You read that right — a majority of the universe (or what we thought to be part of the universe) might not be real. And no, we're not talking about any Matrix-type theories...we're talking about good, old-fashioned space.
Fair warning: If you’re a “Flat-Earther," you may want to stop reading now. If the concept of a spherical Earth is too much for you to grasp, the idea of dark energy will be a real doozy.
Dark energy, which astronomers previously thought made up 68 percent of the universe, is the force responsible for the acceleration and expansion of the universe. The theory of dark energy is purely hypothetical. However, since coming into play about 20 years ago, it has been accepted as the explanation for the universe’s gravitational phenomena ever since.
A new study published by the Royal Astronomical Society suggests that dark energy may not even exist. The authors of the report suggests that dark energy is not actually needed to explain for the universe’s evolution. If proven correct, this study just might overturn some of the most common understandings of the universe.
One of the authors of the paper, Dr. László Dobos, a researcher at Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary, explained why dark energy may not be real:
“Our findings rely on a mathematical conjecture which permits the differential expansion of space, consistent with general relativity, and they show how the formation of complex structures of matter affects the expansion. These issues were previously swept under the rug but taking them into account can explain the acceleration without the need for dark energy.”
6. This Is What Scientists Think Our Universe Is Made Up Of
Basically, the standard models of the universe completely ignore its changing structure. As soon as you take the evolving structure of the universe into account, dark energy is no longer needed. The purely hypothetical dark energy of the universe is no longer imaginary — it’s just not there at all.
7. Scientists Think They Can Explain The Acceleration Of The Universe Without Dark Energy
These scientists used a computer simulation to show that the universe doesn’t expand in a smooth, uniform manner. According to their theory, the expansion of the universe is a bit messier than that. Different regions within the universe expand at different rates, so there’s no more need for dark energy.
Was Einstein just too smart for the rest of us? Maybe. Or maybe his theory of general relativity pushed astronomers toward coming up with the theory of dark energy.
“Einstein’s equations of general relativity that describe the expansion of the universe are so complex mathematically, that for a hundred years no solutions accounting for the effect of cosmic structures have been found,” Dobos said in a statement.
“We know from very precise supernova observations that the universe is accelerating, but at the same time we rely on coarse approximations to Einstein’s equations which may introduce serious side-effects, such as the need for dark energy, in the models designed to fit the observational data,” Dobos explained.
So it looks like Einstein may be the problem, after all!
10. So Is Our Model of the Universe Irrelevant Now?
Not necessarily. The authors of the study still have to prove their hypothesis before we completely ditch the dark energy theory. To replace an old theory with a new theory, you have to make sure the new theory is much better. Basically, this new theory has to explain everything that the old model of the universe explained, while also making new predictions about the universe that can be confirmed through experiments and observations.
Dark energy isn’t completely dead in the water just yet.
If you, like many scientists, are clinging on to the theory of dark energy because it’s an easy way to explain things we don’t actually understand about the universe, you may be clinging to a myth. In the next few years, our model of the universe may completely change, since we may no longer need 68 percent of it.
That’s totally fine with me, as long as the new findings don’t suggest that Earth will be sucked into a black hole or will implode anytime soon.
13. So Are You Ready To Say Goodbye To Dark Energy?
I know this is a lot to process — after all, we’re still not over the fact that Pluto got dropped from the planet gang. But you just may have to forget what you learned in your Astronomy 101 course in college, because some scientists are about to shake things up in the cosmology world. If you're a dark energy lover, you should probably start saying goodbye now... just in case.