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The uncertainty of science: A new theory now shows that dark energy, the apparent acceleration of the universe’s expansion rate on large scales, does not need to exist in order to explain the data that astronomers have obtained.
In the new work, the researchers, led by Phd student Gábor Rácz of Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary, question the existence of dark energy and suggest an alternative explanation. They argue that conventional models of cosmology (the study of the origin and evolution of the universe), rely on approximations that ignore its structure, and where matter is assumed to have a uniform density. “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. 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.” explains Dr László Dobos, co-author of the paper, also at Eötvös Loránd University.
In practice, normal and dark matter appear to fill the universe with a foam-like structure, where galaxies are located on the thin walls between bubbles, and are grouped into superclusters. The insides of the bubbles are in contrast almost empty of both kinds of matter. Using a computer simulation to model the effect of gravity on the distribution of millions of particles of dark matter, the scientists reconstructed the evolution of the universe, including the early clumping of matter, and the formation of large scale structure.
Unlike conventional simulations with a smoothly expanding universe, taking the structure into account led to a model where different regions of the cosmos expand at different rate. The average expansion rate though is consistent with present observations, which suggest an overall acceleration.
In other words, the uneven structure of the universe has never been considered in previous models, and once included in the equations the need for dark energy disappears.