Even though there has been a lot of advances in science and technology in the last century, there hasn’t been any paradigm shifting revolutionary advance in our understanding of the universe since Einstein. Everything has been accomplished within the framework of the 20th century physics.
But we are hitting a rock with this understanding of the universe, and it no longer gives us new answers or expands our horizon. To make the matters worse, some issues that were being considered minor annoyances throughout the last century (regarding our understanding of the universe) are turning into matters that cause scientific crisis.
One such topic is dark matter. This concept was first proposed in the beginning of the 20th century (in 1922 I believe) to explain some discrepancies observed in the movement of galaxies. Astronomical measurements showed that the galaxies were spinning at higher velocities than their apparent mass suggested. The centrifugal force should have caused the material in them to scatter around, since the gravitational force for that visible mass didn’t seem sufficient to keep them together.
So, it was thought, there should be some hidden mass out there that we cannot observe somehow. Some new type of particle that doesn’t emit light, but has mass, or something that absorbs light, etc. Later, many other observations about the universe kept confirming the necessity of some unknown source of matter that accounts for the missing mass.
In fact, they found that the visible matter in the universe is only 20% of what should be out there. So, the dark matter accounts for the 80% of the matter in the universe.
But all the efforts to figure out the source of this missing mass has been unsuccessful for almost a century now.
And this has turned into a crisis now. Some scientists acknowledge this, and some don’t. The scientists who are still calm about this, and doesn’t acknowledge that this constitutes a crisis are fooling themselves I believe.
The missing dark matter, when we know what it is, has a potential to re-write everything we know about the structure of the universe, and the main laws that we think govern it.
Another such topic is dark energy. This one has something to do with the expansion speed of the universe. As almost everyone knows by now, our current understanding of the universe suggests that the whole universe started with a big bang. Everything in the universe started from one point, it kept expanding, and it still expands.
This idea is mostly based on the observation of red shift in the light that comes from the distant galaxies. Red shift suggests a source that is moving away from us, if any other explanations are ruled out. And it seemed there was no better explanation for the red shift than the idea of an expanding universe. Later, scientists also disocovered something called a cosmic background radiation, which also confirms the “big bang / expansion of the universe” idea. These 2 observations, together form the basis of today’s belief that the universe is expanding.
Then, the next step would be to try to determine whether the universe has enough matter in it which will generate enough gravitational force to slow down the expansion, and then eventually cause it to contract. Another possibility of course would be that the amount of matter in the universe is less than the required amount to slow down and reverse the expansion, and that the universe will keep expanding in that case.
But the surprising observation in the last 2 decades has been such that, not only the universe will keep expanding, but its expansion speed keeps increasing. And they also found that the expansion speed kept changing throughout the history of the universe.
This observation is so weird that it almost doesn’t make any sense.
Based on this information, the universe will end in something called a “big rip”, and the galaxies will disappear from our vision one by one as they leave the observable area of the universe. In fact, at some point, our galaxy will be the only one observable by us, or anyone in our galaxy, the rest of the universe will consist of only darkness. (Of course we are talking about billions, even trillions of years from now). And then, long after this happens, the stars within our galaxy will keep getting away from us as well, and at some point, only our star will be visible. But since this will be long after our sun’s life ends, the star in question will be whatever star the humans happen to be living around at the time. (Assuming there are still humans around).
Long story short, the idea that the expansion speed of the universe is increasing caused the scientists to make up another concept to explain this phenomenon, and they called it dark energy. So, whatever is causing the universe to keep expanding at higher speeds must be caused by some kind of energy we know nothing about.
But, as a reader and follower of science all these years, I can tell you that both the concept of dark matter and dark energy are only our placeholder concepts for things that we don’t understand.
And the solution to these problems, I suspect will require a completely different way of looking at the universe.
For example, I suspect that we will have to abandon the idea that the universe is expanding at some point, and I think it is long overdue. Scientists will have to come up with other ideas to explain the red shift and the cosmic background radiation.
I think this is a lot better, and hopefully will be a lot more explanatory than dealing with weird concepts such as dark matter and dark energy.
In fact, I believe part of the reason the idea of big bang has become so popular has something to do with the religious connotations it carries. (That the God created the universe in the beginning, and that there is a beginning to the universe, etc). People liked this idea since its conception, and that is an important part of the reason for its acceptance in my opinion. But the idea creates more questions, and causes more problems than the ones it solves and answers. The biggest issue with the idea of a big bang is that if the whole universe was together at the beginning, and all that gravitation was keeping everything together, then how can it start expanding? There should be no way the universe could leave that initial state, at least, based on everything we know about the laws of nature.
But, that didn’t seem to bother people either, since it implies that some power must have caused it to start to expand, which people associate with God of course.
The theory of big bang is another issue that we should deal with, perhaps in a different article. But in terms of the topic of this article, the conclusion is that there is something wrong about our understanding of the universe, which causes us to invent concepts such as dark matter and dark energy.
Science of the very small (subatomic)
Another area I think we currently have no clue about, is the science of the subatomic. Ever since the dawn of the quantum mechanics, we have been observing all kinds of strange behavior in the subatomic world, from the concept of heisenberg uncertainty principle to the concept of “spooky action from a distance” (which we can cover some other time), or the seemingly unendless number of subatomic particles the physicists seem to keep discovering.
Some of these observations gave rise to theories such as the string theory, which explains all those particles as different vibration frequencies of some fundamental strings that the univserse is supposedly made of, but not only the string theory has its own problems (such as requiring at least 11 dimensions in the univserse), it is not a theory that can yet be experimentally tested either. It is at this point, more like some mathematical games and pastime, and nothing else.
So, another area that humanity is clearly on the wrong track in my opinion is the science of the subatomic.
Impossible EM drive
And while all this is going on in the world of science, which we try to answer scientific questions, some other developments are happening in parallel, that require their own explanations. One such issue is the recent reports that a certain propulsion device called the EM drive seems to work, when it really shouldn’t.
First it was thought it was just a fluke, or an experimentation error, etc. But experiment after experiment seem to show that a new type of propulsion device, which is called an EM drive, works. Nasa has been running many experiments, along with some scientists outside Nasa. This drive seems to violate one of the basic laws of motion, that are first dicovered by Isaac Newton. The law that says every action requires an equal but opposite reaction. None of the propulsion systems that we were aware of until now violated this principal. But the EM drive, even though it doesn’t push anything, or use this action/reaction principal, seems to achive propulsion. This is a very small effect at this time, that can only be measured in vacuum, using very sensitive equipment, but the effect is there nonetheless.
And our current science, and our current understanding of the universe doesn’t explain this either.
Cold fusion / excess heat generators
Another matter that may be in conflict with our current understanding of the laws of nature is the observation of excess heat/energy in certain lab experiments.
This was first observed and announced in 1990s as cold fusion, but since it wasn’t possible to repeat the results reliably, it was quickly dismissed, and it was pushed out of the realm of respectable scientific endevour.
These experiments, that used a type of hyrogen atom (deuterium) seemed to generate excess heat/energy that couldn’t be explained by any known chemical reaction. So, the conclusion of the original scientists that observed the phenomenon was that a nuclear reaction (nuclear fusion) must be happening at room temperature in these experiments. Since fusion normally happens at extremely high temperatures (millions of degrees celcius), achieving this at room temperature was called “cold” fusion, and if it was real, it would be a revolusionary finding, and the end of world’s energy problems.
But people weren’t able to repeat these finding in a reliable way, and there was no theoretical explanation for the results that made sense either, so it was quickly dismissed, and no respectable scientist dared spend time on this type of experiments anymore.
But similar experiments didn’t end. They continued on the border of science and non-science, conducted by people who didn’t care if scientific community took them seriously or not. And very interesting results kept getting reported, some of them somewhat repeatable even.
Since the scientific community doesn’t respect this field anymore, we still don’t know what is going on about these, but there seems to be some unexplained phenomena going on with these experiments as well. Something that may be beyond our current understanding of physics and chemistry.
We could talk more about similar topics, but this should be sufficient for now to make my point, that there are still so many things we don’t understand about the universe, and in the near future, some of the topics I mentioned in this article may even open new fields of science, or change our understanding of the universe completely.