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Einstein in the Dark
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Einstein in the Dark

 

Credit: Oren Jack Turner, Princeton, N.J.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Albert_Einstein_Head_Cleaned_N_Cropped.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Albert Einstein has the reputation of being one of the smartest people who have ever lived. But, the Nobel laureate had one problem, which was that he called the csomological constant the “biggest blunder” of his life. Turns out, maybe it wasn’t a blunder after all.

Why It Matters

  • In 1921, Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize in Physics. However, that wasn’t even for his greatest accomplishment, the general theory of relativity.
  • General relativity says that the shape of space and the flow of time are not fixed but can be warped by mass.
  • Astronomers in Einstein’s time thought that the Milky Way was the entire universe.
  • Einstein thought that for the Milky Way to not collapse by gravity, there needed to be some force pushing outward; he called this the cosmological constant.
  • Credit: NASA, Modified by User:??
    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:080998_Universe_Content_240_after_Planck.jpg
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Comparison of estimated ratios of dark energy and dark matter in the universe today versus 13.7 billion years ago [Figure2]

     

Show What You Know

With the links below, learn more about Einstein and dark energy. Then answer the following questions.

  1. Why did Einstein introduce the cosmological constant?
  2. What scientific discovery caused Einstein to think that the cosmological constant was a blunder?
  3. What has recently been discovered that may serve the role of Einstein’s cosmological constant?
  4. Is dark energy stable or can it appear or disappear?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Oren Jack Turner, Princeton, N.J.; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Albert_Einstein_Head_Cleaned_N_Cropped.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: NASA, Modified by User:??; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:080998_Universe_Content_240_after_Planck.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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