'Einstein was first to dream up dark energy'
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Physicist Albert Einstein was the first to come across the concept of Dark Energy, much before the idea became popular and the genius regretted it as "the biggest mistake of my life", researchers claim.
A dialogue between Einstein and Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger suggests the pair stumbled upon the idea of dark energy 80 years before its time, while toying with what they thought was an ugly fudge factor.
In 1917, Einstein's novel equations of space-time had geometric terms on the left and energy on the right. A constant on the left kept the universe steady, suiting observations at the time.
However, in 1929, it became clear that the universe is expanding and Einstein dubbed the constant "the biggest mistake of my life", the 'New Scientist' reported.
Historian Alex Harvey of New York University re-analysed papers from the physicists, published in 1918. In one Schrodinger toyed with Einstein's equations, moving the constant from the left to the right.
The simple move transformed the constant from part of the geometry of space-time to a source of energy for the universe.
"While mathematically it doesn't make any difference, physically it does," says Harvey.
Einstein responded, rather cheekily, that the properties of this new energy term were either nothing or demand a "non-observable negative density in interstellar spaces".
"That turns out to be dark energy," Harvey says ¿ which only emerged again in 1998 to explain the universe's accelerating expansion.
Cosmologists have been seeking to pin down dark energy's true nature ever since. The discovery that the universe's expansion is accelerating garnered three physicists the 2011 Nobel prize in physics.
Harvey believes if Einstein had followed the mathematics, he could have predicted yet another Nobel-worthy idea from first principles.
Instead, he dismissed his notion almost as soon as he conceived of it.
"The course taken by Herr Schrodinger does not appear possible to me because it leads too deeply into the thicket of hypotheses," Einstein wrote.