Dark, Perhaps Forever

From The New York Times:

Dark600 BALTIMORE — Mario Livio tossed his car keys in the air. They rose ever more slowly, paused, shining, at the top of their arc, and then in accordance with everything our Galilean ape brains have ever learned to expect, crashed back down into his hand. That was the whole problem, explained Dr. Livio, a theorist at the Space Telescope Science Institute here on the Johns Hopkins campus. A decade ago, astronomers discovered that what is true for your car keys is not true for the galaxies. Having been impelled apart by the force of the Big Bang, the galaxies, in defiance of cosmic gravity, are picking up speed on a dash toward eternity. If they were keys, they would be shooting for the ceiling. “That is how shocking this was,” Dr. Livio said.

It is still shocking. Although cosmologists have adopted a cute name, dark energy, for whatever is driving this apparently antigravitational behavior on the part of the universe, nobody claims to understand why it is happening, or its implications for the future of the universe and of the life within it, despite thousands of learned papers, scores of conferences and millions of dollars’ worth of telescope time. It has led some cosmologists to the verge of abandoning their fondest dream: a theory that can account for the universe and everything about it in a single breath.

More here.