Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 117: May-June 1998

Issue Contents

Other pages











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