Albert Einsteinís theory for expansion of the universe put to test
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A research done by University of Arizona astronomy professor found that a popular alternative to Albert Einstein's theory for the acceleration of the expansion of the universe does not fit newly obtained data on a fundamental constant, the proton to electron mass ratio.
Rodger Thompson's findings impact our understanding of the universe and point to a new direction for the further study of its accelerating expansion.
To explain the acceleration of the expansion of the universe, astrophysicists have invoked dark energy -- a hypothetical form of energy that permeates all of space.
A popular theory of dark energy, however, does not fit new results on the value of the proton mass divided by the electron mass in the early universe.
Thompson computed the predicted change in the ratio by the dark energy theory (generally referred to as rolling scalar fields) and found it did not fit the new data.
UA alumnus Brian Schmidt, along with Saul Perlmutter and Adam Reiss, won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for showing that the expansion of the universe is accelerating rather than slowing down as previously thought.
The acceleration can be explained by reinstating the "cosmological constant" into Einstein's general theory of relativity.
Einstein originally introduced the term to make the universe stand still. When it was later found that the universe was expanding, Einstein called the cosmological constant "his biggest blunder."
The constant was reinstated with a different value that produces the observed acceleration of the universe's expansion. Physicists trying to calculate the value from known physics, however, get a number more than 10 to the power of 60 (one followed by 60 zeros) too large -- a truly astronomical number.
That's when physicists turned to new theories of dark energy to explain the acceleration.
In his research, Thompson put the most popular of those theories to the test, targeting the value of a fundamental constant (not to be confused with the cosmological constant), the mass of the proton divided by the mass of the electron.