Dark energy is "real"

The "Dark Energy is Real" kerfuffle is continuing with interesting comment over at Universe Today on the issue. As Nerlich points out;

I mean how the heck did ‘dark energy’ ever become shorthand for ‘the universe is expanding with a uniform acceleration’?

I have to agree. It seems that, with the recent Missing Mass Hysteria, there are some issues to do with astronomical press releases, namely that the truth is somewhat stretched to make the story interesting to the media. 

This is, in my opinion, a problem. Some feedback I have received on this is that any press is good press. But I don't think this is necessarily the case. What happens when dark energy is possibly shown not to be real? Or that the missing mass was not discovered by an undergraduate student during a vacation project? 

Perhaps the assumption is that the general public has a short memory, or that telling the complete truth doesn't really matter. Continuing down this road, we can expect this to come back to bite us. We should not forget what happens to "sexed up" stories, and our colleagues in climate science are actively accused as liars in various areas of the press.

My feeling is, therefore, that the astronomers have to pull their heads in a little, and tell it like it is. Perhaps tempering their press releases to more realistically reflect the actual science, rather than pandering to the hyperbolic to get the press interested.

The press, on the other hand, has to realise that science is not all Nobel prize winning results, and that incremental science is still newsworthy. Media that actually reflects the doing of science is not a bad thing (and will potentially reassure those entering science that you don't need to be Nobel prize winner to make a realistic contribution - something we all learn in the end).

Closing with Nerlich, his final comment hits the mark;

Not saying it’s impossible, but no way has anyone confirmed that dark energy is real. Our flat universe is expanding with a uniform acceleration. For now, that is the news story.


  1. The name "dark energy" is one of the worst coinages in history. As Sean Carroll pointed out, many things are dark and everything has energy. He suggested that, if a better name than "cosmological constant" is needed (and I see nothing wrong with that name), then "smooth tension" captures the important features of the cosmological constant.

  2. Oh my goodness! A comment. Sorry, I had thought I was writing this to myself and didn't really realise anyone would actually read it :)

    Yes, I agree that Dark Energy is not a good name. According the Wikipedia, it's Mike Turner's fault.

    (Phillip, as well as overlapping in research interests, namely microlensing, I believe that we have an mutual acquaintance in Elliott Roper)


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