I was wondering how dark energy is effecting the rate at which the universes expansion occurs.

  • $\begingroup$ Check out Alan Guth. $\endgroup$ – Mike Dunlavey Sep 7 '15 at 12:09
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    $\begingroup$ Related: physics.stackexchange.com/questions/96551/… $\endgroup$ – Martin Sep 7 '15 at 12:19
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    $\begingroup$ Telling people to leave a response is not going to help you get answers. To get attention, the most important things are 1) Write a clear question, 2) Use proper grammar and punctuation, 3) Ask something specific. $\endgroup$ – DanielSank Sep 8 '15 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ I think it's clear that this question is aimed at a simpler understanding than what is offered in the question currently identified as a duplicate in the close votes, so I don't think closing as a duplicate is appropriate. $\endgroup$ – DanielSank Sep 8 '15 at 19:11

How does dark energy allow the universes expansion to accelerate?

I hope that it is clear to the questioner and the readers that the horse pulling dark energy is the experimental observation that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. Dark energy is proposed as the reason why the expansion is accelerating. It is called "dark" because it is not interacting with normal matter, but only with the space time structure.

Take a three dimensional explosion in space. The fragments will fly off and steadily expand from each other. If one observed that their expansion was accelerating, it would mean that extra energy was appearing in the system ( explosives in the fragments? ). The same reasoning applies. The geodesics in space were supposed to follow the Big Bang (after the inflationary period) expanding at a steady rate imposed by the initial impetus, but in an accurate model decelerating slowly because of the weak effect of gravity which is attractive. The observation that the expansion is accelerating introduced the simple concept of extra energy entering the local four dimensional space , and called "dark energy". It is still a matter for research.

  • $\begingroup$ It is called "dark" because it is not interacting with normal matter Do we know this for sure? It seems like the forces involved are so weak, they would basically be undetectable on a local scale... $\endgroup$ – Michael Apr 19 '16 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Michael en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_energy#Nature_of_dark_energy "Dark energy is thought to be very homogeneous, not very dense and is not known to interact through any of the fundamental forces other than gravity. " Of course it all depends on the models used. At the moment, the Cosmic Microwave Background measured is fitted well without extra photons coming out of the uniform expansion . Photons are our signal for usual matter because they invevitably appear in all interactions, therefore the adjective "dark". $\endgroup$ – anna v Apr 20 '16 at 5:31

I suspect this may not make much sense to non-GR heads, but the Einstein equation relates the curvature of spacetime to an object called the stress-energy tensor.

The stress-energy tensor describes the properties of the matter/energy that is causing the curvature. In most cases we're only interested in the amount of matter/energy present i.e. its density, but the pressure of the matter/energy also contributes to the curvature. In other words some matter that has been highly pressurised produces a greater gravitational force than the same density of matter that isn't under any pressure. Pressure leads to an attractive gravitational force.

The curious thing about dark energy is that it behaves as if it has a negative pressure. I mentioned above that normal (positive) pressure causes an attractive gravitational force, and the corollary is that negative pressure causes a repulsive gravitational force.

And this is why dark energy is causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate. It's because it has a negative pressure and the negative pressure produces a gravitational repulsion.

  • $\begingroup$ Polite cough. WMAP demonstrated that the universe is flat, such that at any epoch there is no spacetime curvature because the energy-density is uniform. And see the stress-energy-momentum tensor. It "describes the density and flux of energy and momentum in spacetime", not in pressurized matter. Whilst a gravitational field can be thought of as a spatial pressure-gradient, it's attractive whichever side you look at it from. For overall expansion you need a net pressure rather than a pressure gradient or a negative pressure. $\endgroup$ – John Duffield Sep 7 '15 at 19:13
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the response :) that, for the most part, made sense to me. I was wondering if the gravitational push if the dark energy effects other dark energy? Also how it accelerates space? Correct me if I am wrong but I am fairly sure it is uniform all throughout space, space is getting bigger, so it must be being added... Thanks again. $\endgroup$ – UnhookedSchnook Sep 7 '15 at 21:46
  • $\begingroup$ @MilesGorman: yes indeed, dark energy is appearing from nowhere as the universe expands. In fact it's exactly this property of dark energy that leads to a negative pressure. You're now going to cry but that violates conservation of energy and again, yes indeed, it does! $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Sep 8 '15 at 5:19
  • $\begingroup$ @MilesGorman: read all the answers to the other question and to the question about energy conservation in GR. And do please note that the answer with the most votes is not always the answer that's correct. $\endgroup$ – John Duffield Sep 8 '15 at 12:58

Nobody has any certain answers to this, but IMHO there's an obvious issue with the cosmological constant, which is "the value of the energy density of the vacuum of space". If it's really constant, we've got energy being continually created as the universe expands. That goes against the grain of conservation of energy. I'm not happy with that because I don't know of any situation where energy is not conserved. But I do know that the expanding universe is sometimes likened to an inflating balloon:

enter image description here Image courtesy of the one-minute astronomer.

IMHO it's worth looking into this. If you have a balloon in a vacuum, the pressure of the air inside is balanced by the tension in the skin. You can make the balloon expand by blowing in more air. But since energy is pressure x volume, that takes us right back to the breach of conservation of energy which I'm not happy with. However there is another way to make the balloon bigger. Not by increasing the pressure, but by reducing the tension. This sounds impossible until you think bubble-gum. As the balloon expands, the skin gets thinner and weaker, and less able to resist the expansion. So it expands further, so the skin gets weaker, and so on. The pressure drops, the volume increases, but energy is conserved. This fits with what you read about negative pressure. Tension is negative pressure. Interestingly you can find references here and there to the strength of space which suggest this general idea might have some merit. Milgrom mentions it on page five of http://arxiv.org/abs/0912.2678:

"We see that the modification of GR entailed by MOND does not enter here by modifying the ‘elasticity’ of spacetime (except perhaps its strength), as is done in f(R) theories and the like".

I would hazard a guess that dark energy will turn out to be related to the above in some way. It isn't something mysteriously increasing and pushing space to expand faster and faster. Instead it's something that is becoming less effective at slowing down the expansion of space.


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