Dark secrets of the universe by Marilyn Head | New Zealand Listener
With each scientific discovery, the universe becomes even more shrouded in mystery.
One of the great recent surprises in science is the discovery by Kirshner and his colleagues that the expansion of the universe is accelerating under the influence of a mysterious dark energy. In a strange turn of events, the simplest form of the dark energy looks very much like a modern version of Einstein's cosmological constant – a theory which Einstein proposed but then retracted and has been dubbed ‘Einstein’s greatest blunder’. Warned by Einstein's blunder, and contradicted by the initial results of a competing research group, Kirshner and his team were reluctant to accept their own result. But, convinced by evidence built on their understanding of exploding stars, they announced their conclusion in February 1998 – the universe is speeding up! We live in an extravagant universe with a surprising number of essential ingredients: the real universe we measure is not the simplest one we could imagine.
ROBERT P KIRSHNER, Clowes Professor of Science at Harvard University, is one of the world’s leading astronomers, a popular public lecturer on science and author of “The Extravagant Universe: Exploding Stars, Dark Energy, and the Accelerating Cosmos.” Kirshner is described as a “raconteur of exceptional eloquence,” and by New Scientist as “one of the liveliest and most amusing lecturers in the world of astronomy”. His research has resulted in significant and surprising breakthroughs on the nature of our universe.