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Chasing Shadows

SCI614 Graduate Writing Skills


12 19 2013

San Francisco State University

Karthikeyan Dhandapani


MS in Engineering (EECS)

The universe surrounds us and we are part of it. The unsolved mystery that keeps bugging

us is what universe is made of. In the beginning, the scientists believed that the universe is made

of invisible dark matter that puts forth a gravitation drag on its surroundings. Later, the scientists

found out that the dark matter exists in smaller part of the universe; whereas an energy called

dark energy covers two thirds of the universe. This unknown and invisible enigmatic agent,

called dark energy, pushes the universe apart and remains clueless more than a decade. The

search for the dark energy is going intense as astronomers will start a new space missions to look

into ancient galaxy clusters and exploding stars.

This search first started in 1998 by two astronomers who were searching for the distant

supernovae to find the rate at which the expansion of universe was slowing down. But, they

found that the expansion of the universe is speeding up and it started sometime before 10 billion

years. These findings led us to another shocking discovery. Energy responsible for this

expansion covers two thirds of the universe and it is scattered around the universe. Scientists are

still arguing about the dark energy. They still couldnt figure out exactly, What is it?and what

is it made of?In this essay I’m trying to explain about the existence of dark energy with the

help of theories of some scientists and some research projects.

Our deficient knowledge of the dark energy is limited to three things. First, the dark

energy pushes. Space seems expanding faster. Secondly, there are more things to consider. The

motion, clustering of galaxies and the latest research in microwave observations adds more to the

quarry that almost 68 percent of the universe is made up of energetic, non-material form which is

pushy in nature. And finally, physicists see them in different forms.

The cosmological constant is an energy density inherent to space. According to the

Einstein’s theory of relativity, expansion of space makes the repulsion stronger relative to the

fading universe’s gravity. It results in the increase of scattered matter. The simplest calculation in

the particle physics shows that these particles have very high energy of about 10 120 Joules per

cubic kilometer.

The scarce knowledge of dark energy gives space for many theories that a human could

imagine. If we can figure out that dark energy is changing over time we could eliminate the

cosmological constant. As Carroll said, many intelligent people try to come up with their own

explanation but they have failed. Our best observation as of today is that the dark energy is fairly

stable. Then result would be us, left in a small island universe forever separated from the rest of


The international project “Dark Energy Survey” will start collecting data, this September,

using the large field view telescope set up at CTIA observatory in Chile. By considering the

brightness of the stellar explosion and the time taken by light to reach us we can find how much

expansion it had so far. By measuring the size, position and the distance of planets and galaxies

we could get a new angle in the universe’s history of expansion. The survey team also uses

gravity lensing to count the clusters and determine the dark energy has changed over time.

There are plans for various projects in future that USA and Russia are working to launch

in 2021. One of the space projects is called Euclid. After which the US wide field infrared

telescope is planned. The newer telescopes, thirty meter telescope, European large telescope and

Giant Magellan telescope which are being constructed will also start to work during those years.

This race might still not rule out the idea that dark energy has constant density and even if its

varying we could not find the reason whether it is because quintessence or variation in gravity.

Clare Burrage at the University of Nottingham says that we don’t see a fifth force in the

solar system. Theories like quintessence would produce a fifth force different from gravity.

Theorists are looking for a screening mechanism that weakens the fifth force in denser

environments. Along with Edmund Copeland and Ed Hinds, she is concentrating on much wider

range and higher sensitive dark energies by cloud of cold atoms called a Bose-Einstein

condensate. Eot-Wash pendulum experiment at University of Washington is discerning other

patterns of cosmic explosion such as symmetron.

Michael Romalis at Princeton University and Robert Cadwell at Dartmouth University

have proposed that tiny electrostatic discharge will be generated by earth’s magnetic field when

photons feel quintessence. Caroll mentions that if photons interact with dark energy we could see

another electromagnetic field. He also says that if Plank would announce their measurements of

the polarization of photons they would also announce the detection of quintessence.

The different views about dark energy, throw back and forth about the fate of the

universe. Either the universe the expansion force might be increased and entire universe will be

separated or force change low and contract the universe and form a big heap. If telescopes would

find, in which direction the dark energy would slide, we might find the end of the universe and

might also find other undiscovered things about the cosmos. Being one of the great mysteries for

almost 15 years, we have no proof of what the dark energy is. The convincing part is that we, at

least, have an idea where to look out for clues.


1) Chasing ShadowsPublished online May 11, 2013

2) Dark energy: the decade aheadPublished online 03 December 2007

3) Is dark energy changing? Published online 12 January 2006