Have Dark Forces Been Messing With the Cosmos? – The New York Times

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Have Dark Forces Been Messing With the Cosmos?

The universe seems to be expanding faster than it should be, and astrophysicists have struggled to account for the discrepancy.

Now ideas are popping up. If any turn out to be right, scientists may have to rewrite the story of the origin and, perhaps, fate of the universe.


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By Dennis Overbye

There was, you might say, a disturbance in the Force.

Long, long ago, when the universe was only about 100,000 years old — a buzzing, expanding mass of particles and radiation — a strange new energy field switched on. That energy suffused space with a kind of cosmic antigravity, delivering a not-so-gentle boost to the expansion of the universe.

Then, after another 100,000 years or so, the new field simply winked off, leaving no trace other than a speeded-up universe.

So goes the strange-sounding story being promulgated by a handful of astronomers from Johns Hopkins University. In a bold and speculative leap into the past, the team has posited the existence of this field to explain an astronomical puzzle: the universe seems to be expanding faster than it should be.

The cosmos is expanding only about 9 percent more quickly than theory prescribes. But this slight-sounding discrepancy has intrigued astronomers, who think it might be revealing something new about the universe.

And so, for the last couple of years, they have been gathering in workshops and conferences to search for a mistake or loophole in their previous measurements and calculations, so far to no avail.

“If we’re going to be serious about cosmology, this is the kind of thing we have to be able to take seriously,” said Lisa Randall, a Harvard theorist who has been pondering the problem…

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