02 April 2009

Darkness or Void (or Swiss Cheese)

I've always been fascinated with the idea of dark energy and/or matter, and I find it rather depressing that it may be nothing more than an artifact of data-processing and/or the happenstance position of our galaxy within the universe. Then again, it may actually exist. The plus-side to it not existing is that, based on current data, eventually the universe will expand to the point of either ripping itself apart or of such a low mass/energy density that the whole thing is effectively a vacuum.

I just stumbled across an article discussing the possibilities, and highly recommend it to anyone with an interest. (H/T Three Quarks Daily)

AM CLARIFICATION: That last sentence is rather muddled now that I'm more awake. Current models of the universe that include dark energy have found that the rate of expansion of the universe seems to be accelerating. Thus if the dark energy model is correct, one likely "final outcome" for the universe is that it continues expanding forever, eventually breaking apart all structures held together by gravity, like stars and galaxies, until all matter is spread so thinly that for all intents and purposes, the entire universe is nothing but vacuum. Another potential outcome is that there is some limit to space-time expansion, and after it expands to a certain expanse, it will simply rip apart if it tries to expand more. No one's really sure what happens when space-time rips itself apart, but it probably wouldn't be pleasant for any life-forms left in the universe. But if the current models are wrong, and what we're seeing is just a local phenomena or a happenstance result of averaging data, then those outcomes become less likely.

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