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Laureates of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics make Stellar Discovery

October 11, 2011 Science & Technology 13 Comments
Adam Shelley


The astronomical work of three researchers recently prompted the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to award the trio of researchers on October 4 with the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, for, according to NobelPrize.org, “the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae.”

The prize was divided into three parts, with one half (about $1.4 million) going to Saul Perimutter of The Supernova Cosmology Project at the Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California, Berkeley, and the other half going jointly to Brian Schmidt at the Australian National University of Weston Creek, Australia and Adam G. Reiss at the Johns Hopkins University and Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, both of The High-z Supernova Search Team.

The three researchers used type 1a supernovae as standard candles to measure the rate at which the universe was slowing down since the theorized Big Bang, estimated to be about 13.7 billion years ago. Their goal was to discover what the future of our universe would succumb to, whether it be the eventual slowing down and then contraction back upon itself (known as the Big Crunch), or the drifting apart of galaxies to the point that all energy is vacuumed out (known as the Big Rip).

In 1998 both teams’ observations presented identical results, showing potential evidence that the universe is spreading apart via a force known as ‘dark energy,’ and accelerating as it does so. These dual discoveries reaffirmed the notion that our universe is headed towards a cold, icy void of darkness. After years of cataloging dozens of type 1a supernovae with the help of CCD (charged-coupled device) imaging, the men confirmed that the universe is indeed expanding at a consistently increasing rate.

“This has to be the slowest ah-ha in the history of science,” said
Perimutter over the phone during an interview with a Nobel reporter.

“The fact that the universe is expanding is astonishing but has been
known for decades,” Florian Kilimm, a third-year physics major, said. “That it is even accelerating is incredible and shows how little we know about the world we are living in.”

Andy Howell, who is part of the Adjunct Faculty of UC Santa Barbara’s physics department and a staff scientist at the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (about two and a half miles away from the UCSB campus), had the opportunity to see the Nobel Prize recipients’ research in its early stages.

“I was a post-Doctorate at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory with Perimutter from 2000 to 2003, so that’s right after they got cited for the first paper in which they received the Nobel Prize for,” he said. “But we continued steps to confirm those results, and in fact that’s what I still work on today. So they got the Nobel Prize for figuring out that dark energy is there. Now the work that my group and I do is to try and characterize what this dark energy is.”

Howell says that dark energy is hard to define, and there are multiple interpretations of its power and origins.

“We have some very good clues, and we have a lot of extremes, but we’re working very hard to figure out exactly what it is. Our research is showing us that it looks like this stuff is a property of the vacuum of space itself, so it’s really weird stuff.”

Despite the limited information about space that scientists have, the work of Perimutter, Schmidt and Reiss has still been hailed as revolutionary research that challenges many scientists’ preconceived notions about the universe. According to the Nobel Prize website, “the findings of the 2011 Nobel Laureates in Physics have helped to unveil a Universe that to a large extent is unknown to science.” It is upon this foundation that the work of other researchers such as Howell and other UCSB scientists will hopefully reveal even more information about what lies in and beyond our universe.

“It’s a big thing because it undermines the standard model of
cosmology,” said Samuel Taylor, a third-year chemistry major. “And that’s huge.”

Currently there are "13 comments" on this Article:

  1. Geoff Henderson says:

    First, congrats to the scientists and also to their backers who have supported their research.

    Dark energy sounds incredible. Trapped by my earthly learning, I have always thought in terms of “nothing” as an empty place, like an empty room, nothing in there.

    But in space, it seems to be that “dark energy” is something totally different. Perhaps it is indeed “nothing” but in being nothing it reacts with the “somethings” that we know exist. If that is correct, the the nothing becomes something, viz. dark energy. Perhaps not because of its own properties, but more because of its reaction to matter.

    Can someone explain it to me a bit, I’m floundering badly here…

  2. Peter Morland says:

    Really dark energy and dark matter are patch-ups for the big bang theory and newtonian mechanics to explain the observed (Nobel laureates) acceleration of the expansion of the universe and measured velocities of stars in galaxies (a woman astronomer forget her name-should also get a Nobel prize- as deserving as Henrietta Leavitt with pulsar distance measurement of the galaxies). With the old Big Bang time-space unfolds at ever increasing velocity with distance (but contant at any particular location-Hubble constant) taking with it galaxies and so on, in line with the original energy of the inflation. But now with the new Standard Model time space itself at any particular location is increasing its expansion velocity which naturally requires a further energy input ie dark energy. On the outer edges of the universe objects are travelling at close to the speed of light because time-space is unfurling at that speed but we never see them because the light at virtually the same speed cant overcome this unfurling (as in a black hole). Objects at close to the speed of light also have close to infinite mass relative to us according to relativity. So there should be a massive force of attraction from an outer ring massive gravitational objects (perhaps black holes). But this force can only reach us if gravity ie particle-gravitron travels faster than light (which is a no-no) so as to overcome the time space unfurlment. Hence at the heart of dark energy and dark matter is the age old problem of gravity. So it probably requires a 21st century Newton or Einstein to solve this problem and it may require a complete new way of looking at the fundamentals of physics as those two scientists did in their day. My bet is that the ether is back.

  3. [...] Laureates of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics make Stellar Discovery The astronomical work of three researchers recently prompted the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to award the trio of researchers on October 4 with the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, for, according to NobelPrize.org, “the discovery of the accelerating … Read more on The Bottom Line [...]

  4. Baine Thomas says:

    “So it probably requires a 21st century Newton or Einstein to solve this problem and it may require a complete new way of looking at the fundamentals of physics as those two scientists did in their day. My bet is that the ether is back.”

    It requires any average Joe with a spirit. It’s called God.

    The “Big bang” has obviously been disproven, (4 ways but most recently) as science has discovered that the universe is infinitely expanding from EVERY possible point of reference in every direction, and is accellerating. E=mc2 is being challenged now as particulates are being shot faster than the speed of light. Hopefully the world catches up with these long since discovered facts and stops talking about “the big space fart” and if they do, hopefully they get past the snowscreen and realize “wait a minute, if there was a big space fart, who farted?” Maybe the beginning of the universe was a terrific event, as obviously when GOD himself said “Let there BE” it probably would not have been a little puff but something significant. You can also read the bible for the origin and timing of the universe.

    “In the Beginning there was God, who always was, always has been, and always will be.”

    God created us in his own image, mini-creators, thinkers, natural realm manipulators, knowers of good and evil with the choice to choose between them. beings of spirit and energy and conscience, just like him. The more we find out about the universe, we continue to break all our previous so called “Laws” even the law of thermodynamics has come under fire by the energy revolution. Every new telescope pushes the boundary of “the end of the universe” claims previous, which were supposedly set in stone as law or “scientific fact” and somehow “prove” that God didn’t create that in the first place.

    Science has yet to prove in any way how God does not, can not, or did not, create or continue to create the universe we live in. Science has many times proven how all our scientific ASSumptions and claims have repeatedly turned out to be false, wrong, in need of updating, time and time again.

    Science is currently on a continued course of proving this is nothing random.

  5. The Vedas & Upanishads explained thousands of years ago that God or Parabrahma [also called Paramaatma]is omni present inthe form of Aatma[or soul]in evry being & He is the originator of the Universe ,in the form of Brahma ,His the maintainer of the Unverse as Vishnu & he is the ultimate destroyer of the Universe[when the occasion demands] in the form of Shiva.These 3 functions undertakenby him are called in the Vedas as “Srushti”‘”Sthithi”‘& “Layam”.

  6. Every intrigue happenings round the globe spells the definition that the universe is getting to the climax of its extinction.Dark energy physics has really explained how our universe will look like in the next decades.I must commend that the entire PHYSICS COMMUNITY should rise up and take her challenge of more physical exploration so that our world would be a safe place of abode.CONGRATULATIONS, MY LEARNED COLLEAQUE…

  7. Dan Overcash says:

    God and dark energy are man created concepts. We have observed evidence for an accelerating universe.

  8. a syam says:

    ”created concepts” means the probable explanations within the limitations of human senses. right! Neither god nor dark energy are created by man. They were already there and we only found them and the ”dark energy” as guessed is only a discovery and not invention. The science most of the time explainswhat is how the things are happening and it fails to explain ‘why’ such a thing happen.science explains why apple falls down is because of gravity and cannot explain the why or origin of gravity as that of dark energy.where science fails and empirical evidence proves intelligent creature theory.

  9. Bipin S. says:

    Congratulations,It is a great feeling to know the physics that i am learning is not changing.thanks.

  10. Allen Liou says:

    It is surprised to hear that the three U.S. physicists had won the Nobel Prize in physics for discovering through the study of supernovae that the universe is accelerating expansion.
    The Hubble’s redshift and the Doppler Effect are the facts. It doesn’t mean the universe is expansion or universe is accelerating expansion.
    The expansion of the universe is based on the true of the Big Bang theory. If the Big Bang theory is not true. Even though the Hubble’s redshift, and the Doppler Effect is the facts. The expansion or accelerating expansion of the universe is not supported.
    The Big Bang theory and “dark energy” are not just a crazy idea, it is nonsense. Is anyone believe the “dark energy” able to create the real energy to push the supernovae accelerating expansion? If you do believe it. You may believe “dark human” can turn spirit to a real person.
    In Scientific community , the Big Bang and ”dark energy” issue had been argue for so many year, And now act rashly to award the Nobel Prize in physics for the universe is accelerating expansion .I believe that someday will be proved the 2011 of the Nobel Prize for physics turn out to be a joke.
    The expansion of Universe should not true. If it is true, the Big Bang theory and “dark energy” will be true.
    Now raise a big question. If he Big Bang theory and “dark energy” are not true. Also the Hubble redshift, and the Doppler Effect is the facts, How could be proved the universe is not expansion or not accelerating expansion?
    The space of the universe has only three kind of possibility. One is Euclidean space, one is elliptical space and the other is hyperbolic space. These three kinds of space can only be hypnosis to be one of the three only, And, it cannot be identify by proved.
    1. If the universe is a Euclidean space, due to the Hubble redshift, and the facts of the Doppler Effect, There must be the expansion of the universe and the Big Bang also true. This is contradiction to the Big Bang is not true. So, the space of the universe may not be a Euclidean space
    2. The space of the universe will never be an Elliptical space. If the space of the Universe is an Elliptical space. When we see anything from the east, can be seen from the west too. Obviously, it is not so
    3. Remaining space is The Hyperbolic space.

    Let analyze, if supernovae happen in Hyperbolic space.

    Hubble’s laws are derived from Euclidean rules and Euclidean formulas. However, assume the Universe is in Hyperbolic space. Very logically, we must derive its rules and formulas from Hyperbolic rules and non-Euclidean formulas.

    The rules and formulas of Hyperbolic space are quite different from Euclidean space. Hence, the results derived from utilizing these two systems must be different. These differences may be the keys to unveil the mystery of the Universe.
    “Now we try to prove, the universe is not expansion or not accelerating expansion. Even though Hubble’s redshift and the Doppler effect are the facts”


    When photon travel a distance of r. The equation of a light spherical front in Euclidean space is

    x2 + y2 + z2 = r2 ————– (1)

    From Hyperbolic geometry, the equation of the light spherical front is

    tanh2 x/k + tanh2 y/k + tanh2 z/k = tanh2 r/k —— (2)

    Where k is the constant of the space curvature. ?cosmological constant?
    (From page 298 of non-Euclidean Geometry by Allen Liou, 1964.)

    Comparing equations (1) and (2), we can see very obviously that the area of the light spherical fronts is very much different. Even though they have the same radius. Therefore, the Doppler Effect should not be the same between Euclidean space and Hyperbolic space.

    The area of the Light Spherical Front in Euclidean space is 4?r2.
    What is the area of the Light Spherical Front in Hyperbolic space?

    Let us determine the circumference of a circle in Hyperbolic space first:

    Let PQ be the chord of a circle of radius r, which subtends an angle?, M be the midpoint of the chord, and O be the center of the circle.

    fig 1.

    From the formula of the right-angle in Hyperbolic trigonometry, we have (page 143 of non-Euclidean Geometry by Allen Liou, 1964.)

    sinh PQ/2k = sinh r/k sin?POQ/2

    If angle ?? 0
    We have ds/2k = sinh r/k d?/2
    or ds = k sinh r/k d?

    Integrating both sides, we have

    Circumference = 2?k sinh r/k

    Then, let ds are the length of the arc of the spherical circle, and r be the radius.
    By same formula, we have, see

    fig 2.

    ds = k sinh r/k d?

    The area of the circle strip is
    d (area of circle strip) = 2?k sinh AM/k ds

    sinh AM/k = sinh r/k sin?

    d(area of circle strip)=2?k[sinh r/k sin?][k sinh r/k d?]
    = 2?k 2 sinh2 r/k d?

    Integrating both sides, we have
    area of sphere = 4?k 2 sinh2 r/k


    When a photon travels a distance r, the area of the Light Spherical Front in Euclidean space is 4?r2.

    area of sphere = 4?r 2

    But the area of the Light Spherical Front in Hperbolic space is

    area of sphere = 4?k 2 sinh2 r/k

    Compare the two Spherical Areas in the two different spaces with the same r. We easily to see that, if we are in Hyperbolic universe, Light Spherical Front stretch from 4?r 2 to 4?k 2 sinh2 r/k. We temporary called this stretch by “Liou’s stretch effect”.

    The Spherical Front of photon may only travel a distance r in Hyperbolic space. But in Euclidean space, it appears to travel a distance of k sinh r/k.

    From the difference of r and k sinh r/k in Euclidean space, it looks like the object moves from point r to point k sinh r/k, but the object actually stays still in Hyperbolic universe.

    When we use Redshift of Doppler Effect in Euclidean space to calculate velocity of galaxy from point r to point k sinh r/k. Actually, there is no movement from point r to point k sinh r/k. It only cause by the stretch of curvature of Hyperbolic space (“Liou’s stretch effect”).

    I will use the velocity to calculate the space constant (cosmological constant). Use redshift of frequency the result is the same.


    Let s = k sinh r/k – r

    Where s is the distant of galaxy moving from position r to the position k sinh r/k.
    Taking the derivative of both sides, we have

    ds/dt = cosh r/k dr/dt – dr/dt

    where ds/dt =v (the velocity of galaxies at the remote distance of r), and dr/dt is the speed of light c.

    v = cosh r/k c – c

    v = c[cosh r/k - 1] = 2c sinh2 r/2k ———- (3)

    There are several versions of the Hubble’s constant. We will select the one most popular one. In which, the velocity of galaxies at a distance of six billion light-years move away at a velocity of roughly 90,000 kilometers/sec.
    Hence v=90,000 kilometers/sec and r=6 bly.

    Hence we have

    v = 90,000 kilometers/sec and r = 6 bly.

    90,000 = 2c sinh2?6bly/2k ?

    ? 0.3c = 2c sinh2?3bly/k ?

    ? k = 3bly/ sinh-1?0.12

    ? k = 7.931965828 bly

    Where bly is billion light-years.


    1. Hubble’s constant was not constant.

    From equation (3), v = 2c sinh2 r/2k , the velocity of galaxies and the remote distance of r were not exactly linear proportions in Euclidean universe. The velocity is more likely in slightly acceleration observed in Euclidean universe.

    Here, the cosmological constant, k = 7.931965828 bly was based on the Hubble’s Law at 6 bly. If we based on a difference distance, like one on a distance of 1 or 2 bly, the k value should be slightly different. If we use different versions of Hubble’s Law, the cosmological constant k will be even more different. We really need an accurate data to determine the constant k

    Assuming k = 7.931965828 bly is correct; the Hubble’s diagram in Euclidean space should look like the following diagram.

    From this chart, we should call Hubble’s accelerator instead of Hubble’s constant.

    2. Is Universe’s redshift cause by DOPPLER EFFECT or “LIOU’S STRETCH EFFECT”?

    From Hubble’s Law, the speed by which a galaxy moves away is proportional to the distance to the galaxy. A galaxy with distance of 6 bly has a velocity of 90,000 km/s. For a galaxy 30 bly away, its speed will be 450,000 km/s. This is beyond the speed of light a lot. It is contradict to the fact of the speed of light is constant.
    In recent year, astronomer’s observed that Hubble’s constant is not constant. The galaxies actually moving away accelerated, like supernovae.

    From this two facts, the Universe’s redshift is more likely to be caused by the “LIOU’S STRETCH EFFECT”.
    . And Doppler Effect caused by the STRETCH of the Hyperbolic space (“LIOU’S STRETCH EFFECT”) not by the speed of velocity in Euclidean space.

    So, the universe is not expansion nor accelerating expansion. Even though Hubble’s redshift and the Doppler effect are the facts.

    In other words, the universe is still in Hyperbolic space. We can forget about Big Bang Theory, dark matter, dark energy, block hole, white hole etc.

    By the way, if anyone can prove the sum of the angles of three galaxies are less than two right angles. I will award 100000 USD.

    It is easier to prove than dark energy.

  11. “d(area of circle strip)=2?k[sinh r/k sin?][k sinh r/k d?]
    = 2?k 2 sinh2 r/k d?”
    My head is hurting…

  12. chaitanya says:

    ‘science’ explains the processes and events that happened in our existing system. That is as if that explains the recent models of computers / refrigerators. Explains how the systems run , just like physiology and anatomy of human body which explains as to because of which the parts works, like, for example heart pumps blood and brain gives instructions to body organs etc. In physics, it explains that gravity is responsible for fall of apple, air is responsible for movement, they explain magnetic force, they explain that water naturally flows towards slope, they explain oxygen responsible for working of organs etc.. Now, they found out that the universe is expanding and incidentally found out ‘dark energy’ like gravity, air etc.. But the fact is that they are unable to explain the primary origins of such forces like heat , air, gravity , which cannot be visualized by eye. Heat can only be felt but cannot be seen, air can only be felt, gravity can only be felt but cannot be seen, and by extending the same logic pain also can only be felt not to be seen. Hence, those who experience can only believe it. Now, because of the present work of expanding universe, the concept of ‘dark energy’ came out. This ‘dark energy’ also one cannot see by eyes but only can be felt or deducted from other secondary events.. The inadequacies and limitations of our sense organs i.e, design of our physical body is responsible for not seeing it. The existence of the above things is not in dispute but it cannot be seen because of our limitations. The radio waves and other waves because of which the wireless apparatus, mobile, radars etc. do function but the radio waves are not visible to human eye and a common man is not able to hear the radio waves because of the fact that the physical absence of apparatus in his body, because of which he is unable to hear them with his normal ears. Special apparatus such as radio receivers are require for that. Because, the normal human hear do not hear radio waves , it doesn’t mean that they do not exist. On the same logic it is perfectly reasonable and logical to expect that some energy , which is beyond the comprehension of sensory deficiencies of human body, may be there. As the human designed transistor first and then the CPU or microprocessor for computers and electricity for their functioning , the same way there may be some mysterious energy which might have been created by intelligent designer who may beyond our comprehension because of our deficiencies. It doesn’t mean that possibility of such existence who is continuously upgrading the models though at slower pace cannot be ruled out. Ethnocentrism in the form of ‘science ego’ cannot be encouraged and it is also like religious intolerance of other religions as that of terrorism. when alternate views are possible, we need not ridicule the other view. Just like religious secularism the secularism of thought shall also be encouraged.

  13. Bellatrix Lestrange says:

    Dark energy is something we Death Eaters know a thing or two about.

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