Oddments -- Scientists in the international collaboration Essence propose that "dark energy," an undetectable energy that may be responsible for the increase in the acceleration of this universe, may be explained by a quantum mechanical interpretation of Einstein's proposed "cosmological constant." And they say they have measured the dark power to within 10 percent.
Dark energy, originally proposed by Dutch scientist Hendrick Casimir in 1948, considered that photons spontaneously appearing in space could drive tiny microelectromechanical system plates together. It's called the Casimir force and has already been measured by at least two researchers. It's also known as "zero point" energy, that magical event that pulls energy from nowhere. (Arthur Clarke and physicist Stephen Baxter have written a novel, The Light of Other Days, in which the Force is used to produce microscopic wormholes on demand that can look anywhere in the universe, including backwards in time.)
The Essence team measured these tiny forces with data from 60 of the oldest galaxies in the universe and concluded that:
dark energy is the pressure exerted by empty space. From a quantum mechanical perspective, empty space is unstable. According to statistics, photons and subatomic particles pop into the vacuum of space in a way that shows that "empty" is only an approximation: Space actually comprises a statistical soup of particles and antiparticles that are in a constant state of creation.
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