Just What Everyone Needed – Another Useless Issue to Throw Money At
The current issues facing Americans are pretty severe. There is the question of Iranian nuclear capability, the decreasing functionality of the federal government, and the quest to find out why anyone would ever vote for Rick Santorum amongst others. Now a new issue has been added to the list of worries, the state of the universe.
This is a problem out there that has been known to scientists but for some reason has been kept from the rest of us.
It has been known since the late 1920s that the universe is getting bigger. But it was thought that the expansion was slowing. When in 1998 two independent studies reached the opposite conclusion, cosmology was knocked head over heels.
Okay maybe it hasn’t been kept from anybody,
Since then, 5,000 papers have been written to try to explain (or explain away) this result. “That’s more than one a day,” marvels Saul Perlmutter, of the
Lawrence National Laboratory, who led the Supernova Cosmology Project—one of the studies that was responsible for dropping the bombshell. Berkeley
Maybe it’s just nobody cared. But it turns out this is a big deal amongst scientists who have nothing better to do, like finding a cure for cancer or trying to determine what genetic defect has caused European governments to try to destroy the European economy. After all, 5,000 papers and counting have been published on this problem which affects the lives of exactly zero of the billions of inhabitants of the planet.
For everyone who is wondering, here is the explanation of the issue.
Relativity says that for the universe to be flat, it has to have a very particular density—which in relativity is a measure not just of the mass contained in a certain volume, but also of the energy. The puzzle was that various lines of evidence showed that the universe’s endowment of ordinary matter (the stuff that people, planets and stars are made of) would give it just 4% of that density. Adding in extraordinary matter—“dark matter”, not made of atoms, that interacts with the rest of the universe almost only by means of gravity—gets at most an extra 22%. That left almost three-quarters of the critical density unaccounted for.
Wow, you would think is scientists are looking for something unaccounted for, they might focus on the $1.2 billion and growing missing funds from MF Global. That’s where we would look if we had scientific expertise and credentials.
But not to worry, a solution may be in hand. The scientists are going to take pictures of the universe with a digital camera. No not the one you carry in your man purse or woman purse, this is a really big digital camera.
AT FIVE tonnes and 520 megapixels, it is the biggest digital camera ever built—which is fitting, because it is designed to tackle the biggest problem in the universe. On February 20th researchers at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (pictured), which sits 2,200 metres (7,200 feet) above sea level in the Atacama desert of northern Chile, will begin installing this behemoth on a telescope called Blanco. It is the centrepiece of the Dark Energy Survey (DES), the most ambitious attempt yet to understand a mystery as perplexing as any that faces physics: what is driving the universe to expand at an ever greater rate.
Really, the biggest problem in the universe is to understand why the universe is expanding at a greater rate? No, sorry scientists, that is not the biggest problem in the universe, and besides if you really want to know the answer, just call the universe and ask it. It’s in the yellow pages, under the category “Universes” and it has an 800 number so the call will not even cost you anything.