boley1 quotes a report from New Atlas: According to the Lambda Cold Dark Matter (Lambda-CDM) model, which is the current accepted standard for how the universe began and evolved, the ordinary matter we encounter every day only makes up around five percent of the universe’s density, with dark matter comprising 27 percent, and the remaining 68 percent made up of dark energy, a so-far theoretical force driving the expansion of the universe. A new study has questioned whether dark energy exists at all, citing computer simulations that found that by accounting for the changing structure of the cosmos, the gap in the theory, which dark energy was proposed to fill, vanishes. According to the new study from Eotvos Lorand University in Hungary and the University of Hawaii, the discrepancy that dark energy was “invented” to fill might have arisen from the parts of the theory that were glossed over for the sake of simplicity. The researchers set up a computer simulation of how the universe formed, based on its large-scale structure. That structure apparently takes the form of “foam,” where galaxies are found on the thin walls of each bubble, but large pockets in the middle are mostly devoid of both normal and dark matter. The team simulated how gravity would affect matter in this structure and found that, rather than the universe expanding in a smooth, uniform manner, different parts of it would expand at different rates. Importantly, though, the overall average rate of expansion is still consistent with observations, and points to accelerated expansion. The end result is what the team calls the Avera model. If the research stands up to scrutiny, it could change the direction of the study of physics away from chasing the ghost of dark energy. “The theory of general relativity is fundamental in understanding the way the universe evolves,” says Dr Laszlo Dobos, co-author of the new paper. “We do not question its validity; we question the validity of the approximate solutions. Our findings rely on a mathematical conjecture which permits the differential expansion of space, consistent with general relativity, and they show how the formation of complex structures of matter affects the expansion. These issues were previously swept under the rug but taking them into account can explain the acceleration without the need for dark energy.” The study has been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. You can view an animation that compares the different models here.
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