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No. 117: May-June 1998

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The Accelerating Universe

Many laymen are uncomfortable with the idea that the entire universe originated at an infinitesimal point and is now expanding away from this cosmic navel. Many astronomers are equally disturbed by the recent discovery that all these fleeing stars and galaxies are not being reined in by the force of gravity. In fact, observations of distant supernovas indicate that this exodus of matter is actually speeding up. Some universal repulsive force, it seems, is operating on very large scales of distance. From an unknown somewhere energy is being added to all constituents of the cosmos. The universe is more than a cloud of debris flying away from the Big Bang's Ground Zero. Somewhere, perhaps beyond the ken of our primitive instruments, is a fount of energy of which we know nothing.

All this is a serious challenge to our understanding of space, time, and matter. Cosmologists are now appealing to quantum mechanical "shimmers," to "X-matter," and to a property called "quintessence."

(Glanz, James; "Exploding Stars Point to a Universal Repulsive Force," Science, 279:651, 1998. Also: Glanz, James; "Astronomers See a Cosmic Antigravity Force at Work," Science, 279:1298, 1998.)

Comment. When theorists toss around terms like "X-matter" and "quintessence," you can be sure that the basic laws of the universe are still unchalked upon science's big blackboard. God's face is still unread.

From Science Frontiers #117, MAY-JUN 1998. 1998-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987