back to article Einstein almost tagged dark energy in the early 1920s

It’s of historical interest only, at this point, but an analysis of an exchange between Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrödinger seems to show how close Einstein came to predicting the dark energy problem. In this paper, submitted to Arxiv and described at the Arxiv Blog here, Alex Harvey of City University, New York, examines a …

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  1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge
    WTF?

    Huh?

    "Where it becomes interesting is how Einstein draws out Schrödinger’s work: it left only the possibilities that the cosmological constant was a fixed number, or variable."

    A variable constant? That's revolutionary maths right there!!

    1. Paul J Turner

      Re: Huh?

      Programmers know - "Constants aren't, variables don't"

      Maybe the universe is expanding at at a constant rate but the time inside is being stretched thinner, so it seems to be accelerating.

      We all know that there's only so much time to do anything, usually short by 10%.

      1. Martin Budden

        Re: Huh?

        Hofstadter's law! (as any programming fule kno)

        1. Vic

          Re: Huh?

          > Hofstadter's law!

          The Eighty Per Cent rule.

          The last 20% of the project takes 80% of the time allotted. Unfortunately, the first 80% of the project has already taken 80% of the time allotted...

          Vic.

    2. Grikath Silver badge

      Re: Huh?

      It's mostly a matter of scale.. The number can change over the whole lifetime of the universe (opening another can of worms, as Einstein noted) , which is a rather vast amount of time. For the here-and-now (or a sufficiently "short" time interval) it can be considered "fixed" and act as a constant. The error you get in your calculation would be insignificant, and be applicable to that specific point in space-time.

      It's not unlike the old and tried example where Newtonian mechanics work just fine, as long as you stay well below c. The relativistic portion becomes insignificant, and can be "safely" ignored for practical purposes.

    3. Chemist

      Re: Huh?

      "that the cosmological constant was a fixed number, or variable."

      "A variable constant? That's revolutionary maths right there!!"

      or !

    4. Raumkraut
      Headmaster

      Re: Huh?

      "...it left only the possibilities that the cosmological constant was [either] a fixed number, or variable."

      Perhaps that can help the hard-of-parsing understand the wording. I thought it was pretty clear, given the next sentence begins:

      "The latter, however, he finds deeply problematic..."

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        1. NomNomNom

          Re: Huh?

          people just need to engage their brains a bit more! I mean FFS the text was perfectly clear. I am quite angry now.

    5. Scott Wheeler
      Headmaster

      Re: Huh?

      > A variable constant? That's revolutionary maths right there!!

      No, it's cromulent.

      The cosmological constant arises as a "constant of integration", i.e. there's an equation, and Einstein integrated both sides of it by some variable (sorry, I don't remember which off hand). When you do this, you get a new equation where you introduce a "constant". This means it's a value which doesn't depend on the variable you are integrating by. It may well depend on some other variable, or it could be a fixed number, but in this context you call it a constant of integration. The interesting point is that the process gives you no information at all about the value of that constant.

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  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too bad Einstein wasn't around today to use the tools that is available.

    A link needs to be spell checked. Erwin SchröDinger

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's not how you spell it?

    2. Grikath Silver badge
      Joke

      The writer still hasn't öpened the Böx, so anyhting is pössible..

    3. pepper

      So I wasnt the only one whom noticed mister schraaaaadingers involvement!

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        I thought it was my version of Firefox having another one of its intermittent problems with non-English characters!

        The trouble is, I may now always hear SchröDinger in my head whenever his name comes up (a bit like I always hear "SkIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIInEEEEEEEr" because of the Simpsons).

      2. Erwin SchrÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂöDinger
        Happy

        We SchrÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂöDingers do get around.

        1. John 62

          +1 for the username, good sir!

          Are you a Redditor perchance?

    4. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

      Was there a cat on the keyboard?

      1. David Pollard
        Coat

        Was there a cat on the keyboard?

        Pussibly.

      2. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

        Was there a cat on the keyboard?

        Maybe, and it may be dead. We'll have to have a look...

    5. An(other) Droid
      Devil

      Could you click that link? Pretty please?

    6. Luke McCarthy

      That looks like it has been interpreted and reinterpreted alternatively as ISO Latin 1 and UTF-8 several times...

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  3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Dark matter

      How is that "embarrassing"? In front of whom?

      The attitude of the Prussian Gymnasium, "know all your answers when the teacher asks you" should be deep-sixed once you leave that lair of scum and villany.

      > We cannot explain it.

      We cannot "explain" basic QM either.

      1. PC Paul

        Re: Dark matter

        >> We cannot explain it.

        > We cannot "explain" basic QM either.

        We can't explain magnets.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Dark matter

          ...or women...

          ...And the strange problem of boiling water freezing faster than room temperature water...

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: Dark matter

            The boiling water freezing faster has been explained, or at least explained to the point that there are few arguments about it.

            We're still utterly knackered on the first problem though. Tens of thousands of dilligent research and still no closer to understanding.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: women

            He had women figured out, at least well enough to live with his wife and mistress in the same house.

            1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: women

              A true genius.

        2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Dark matter

          Magnetic can be reduced to electric fields + relativistic effects though.

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        3. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Dark matter

          We can explain magnets - you just weren’t paying attention or your teacher was shit.

          Or are we getting into a new 'creationist' physics era where people pretend something can't be explained by one branch of physics so they can put forward another knowing that 99.999% of the population have trouble working a remote?

          1. JetSetJim Silver badge

            Re: Dark matter

            > We can explain magnets - you just weren’t paying attention or your teacher was shit.

            Wooosh....

            http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/fcking-magnets-how-do-they-work

        4. garbo
          Joke

          Re: Dark matter

          "We can't explain magnets."

          I can. But the subject is too repulsive.

  4. Mike Moyle Silver badge

    , "... a non-observable negative density..."

    That's about as comprehensible a description of dark energy as I've heard yet! Sounds like the Hip Einie was there; he just couldn't believe that there was actually any "there" where he was!

    1. Ole Juul

      Re: , "... a non-observable negative density..."

      he just couldn't believe that there was actually any "there" where he was!

      That's because it is only true for very large values of wasn't.

  5. GreggS

    But what about the cat?

    have either of them bothered to check it?

    1. Captain DaFt
      Coat

      Re: But what about the cat?

      The cat was fine. After Schrödinger put it in the box and closed the lid, Someone in another room saw an empty bag moving, opened it, and let the cat out of the bag.

      (Seems Schrödinger forgot to account for quantum tunneling and feline luck.)

      1. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

        Re: But what about the cat?

        Ah, but can one cat simultaneously exit two bags in two different rooms?

        And does this experiment scale beyond 9?

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          1. Chemist

            Re: But what about the cat?

            "and not observing into which bag the cat climbed,"

            That's easy, in order

            1) the warmest

            2) the most comfortable

            3) the easiest to get into

            4 the hardest to be removed from

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                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: But what about the cat?

                  You sir deserve a cookie. Here *passes a cookie*

                  1. This post has been deleted by its author

                    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

                      Re: But what about the cat?

                      But cats are pretty cool already, no?

                      1. johnck

                        Re: But what about the cat?

                        As the great philosophical group Squeeze once said “It’s very cool for cats”, though we have not idea with it is that is cool for cats

                        1. greenawayr
                          Thumb Up

                          Re: But what about the cat?

                          I thought the advert told us it was milk?

                      2. Chemist

                        Re: But what about the cat?

                        "But cats are pretty cool already, no?"

                        Er, yes and no.

                        "The experiment will be easiest to run if the probabilities are equal -- so the bags are equally warm, comfortable, easy to get into, hard to be pulled from, inconvenient for whichever human is nearby, on top of something someone is wanting to read, etc."

                        I also think that it's going to be impossible to get two exact bags and even if there is only an infinitesimal difference between them the cat will choose the best one

                        "if we cool the cat down as far as possible."

                        I think you are probably breaking the 5th Law of Thermodynamics

                        " Any small increase in the cat's de Broglie wavelength will be extremely helpful."

                        Cats can adjust their de Broglie wavelength, their zero point energy and almost every other parameter. They are also quite capable of emerging from a blackhole ( or any other sort of interesting subterranean space)

                        All this off-topic for sure but discussing GR at this time of the morning (UK) is a bit heavy.

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                        2. AVee

                          Re: But what about the cat?

                          May I suggest using a Cheshire Cat, they are well know for their ability to emerge and disappear in all sorts of weird places.

                  2. Jonathan Richards 1
                    Stop

                    Urggh

                    If you're passing cookies, you probably need medical attention, and promptly.

        2. Brian Morrison
          Joke

          Re: But what about the cat?

          Yes, it scales as far as 11, but then for some reason becomes stuck in a permanent sustain.

        3. An(other) Droid

          Re: But what about the cat?

          > Ah, but can one cat simultaneously exit two bags in two different rooms?

          That, you have ask Herr Heisenberg.

          1. Grikath Silver badge

            Re: But what about the cat?

            Herr Heisenberg forgot to take the narrative imperative into account, which states that any cat put into a bag will turn in to Greebo, which automatically implies the state of the cat can be universally described as "murderous".

            Problem solved.

          2. Chemist

            Re: But what about the cat?

            "That, you have ask Herr Heisenberg."

            I'm not certain where he is !

    2. Tom 13
      Coat

      Re: But what about the cat?

      I heard that the cat came back, the very next day.

  6. g e
    Alert

    I've been wondering about this dark matter stuff

    And seeing as so much of 'stuff' is symmetric in the universe - electrons - protons, upspin - downspin, wave-particle duality all the mesons, baryons, bosons and other stuff that all have counterpart particles...

    Then might there not be some form of matter (or unmatter) that emits (for want of a better word) 'ungravity' which is a repulsive force as a counterpart to gravity which is as yet undiscovered but could be pushing stuff apart instead of hauling it together.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: I've been wondering about this dark matter stuff

      Yes. It's called Piers Morganium, and it repels all known substances, due to emissions of a quantum particle called the disguston. This has spins of nausea, loathing, revulsion and WTF.

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      1. NomNomNom

        Re: Being really pedantic here

        "So you get big clumps of something that doesn't interact much except through gravity, and normal matter falls into the potential wells. That way we can actually get the kind of structure we see in the universe (very hard otherwise), get galaxies that spin as fast as we actually observe (they'd fly apart otherwise), and introduce a whole ream of other problems."

        sorry but that sounds largely bollocks. noone has ever seen an invisible lump of matter and they just defy common sense. The explanation offered by string theory is much better. we've all see puppet shows where where real thin string can be completely invisible from a distance. So it makes sense that the reason galaxies are held together is because of thin string like structures linking all the stars together. That's also why they are spinning because the strings have all become quantum entangled. I am no steven hawkings but I did do physics at A Level for half a year so this isn't just some uneducated rant.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. NomNomNom

            Re: Being really pedantic here

            I didn't mean ACTUAL string obviously so those who downvoted my comments need to get a grip.

            If it was actual string all the stars would stay the same distance from each other as they are spinning so no the string must be very stretchy elastic kind. Where does the string come from?? probably it was created in the big bank and subsequently over billions of years has become caught in the stars themselves, much like how a shoelace in a box of earings will over time become snagged.

            The string may be black in color which is why we can't see it on the backdrop of space, or possibly transparent.

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            2. Count Ludwig
              Coffee/keyboard

              Re: Being really pedantic here

              Priceless!

              And the fortuitous typo: "big bank" was icing on the cake. (It was a typo wasn't it?)

              Of course you might be a troll, wrapped like a mummy in irony - I mean citing "half a year A level physics" as argumentum ad verecundiam to a professional comologist was worthy of Henry Root - in which case I still thank you, multifold.

              Either way you owe me a new kb!

        2. Vic

          Re: Being really pedantic here

          > I did do physics at A Level for half a year so this isn't just some uneducated rant.

          Non sequitur?

          Vic.

    3. An(other) Droid

      Re: I've been wondering about this dark matter stuff

      > so much of 'stuff' is symmetric in the universe - electrons - protons, upspin - downspin, wave-particle duality all the mesons, baryons, bosons and other stuff that all have counterpart particles...

      You mean like Yin and Yang, good and evil, life and death, Dumb and Dumber...

  7. Grom_uk
    Holmes

    The fault is in the theory not in the search

    The need for dark energy is due to a flaw in the thinking of the shape of the universe.

    We know mass puts a dint in "space time" but what we ignore is that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

    Between the lumps of mass space time is bulging up, causing the effects we atribute to dark energy.

    If you drop a ball in water the amount of water it displaces has to move away.

    Same with "space time" except it moves away at the speed of light.

    What is at the edge of the universe......I tidal wave of disturbed space time spreading outwards.

    oh and the big bang was something 4th dimentional "twanging" space time, and as it jumped back the energy released formed matter etc.. etc.. you can work it out from there.

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      1. Tom 13

        @HolyFreakinGhost

        Granted I dropped out of astro because I couldn't deal with diff eqs and vector calculus, but here's the part I don't get on a conceptual level with regard to the dark matter issue:

        Essentially Einstein proposed a multi-dimensional framework inside of which our 4 dimensional exits. Our observations occur within that 4 dimensional framework. So if the missing mass/dark matter is simply another 4 dimensional framework sitting next to us in the multi-dimensional framework, why would we be able to measure something in the 4 dimensional framework? Yes we'd be able to detect affects it is having on our system, but we wouldn't be able to measure it directly. So it really is a sort of new ether in the sense that while we know it's there, we can't really experiment with it, measure it, or understand it. In fact, we're just like the ancient cavemen with one major difference: their block was ignorance that could be corrected, the block we face is an actual physical disconnect. So I see this as a variation on the immovable object vs irresistable force paradox: it's only a paradox because if you assume the one the other doesn't exist.

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    2. Crisp Silver badge

      Re: The fault is in the theory not in the search

      Ok, now break out the maths.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. The March Hare

          Re: The fault is in the theory not in the search

          Aaargg! my brains is leaked outa my head..

          getting in the box with the cat - or not...

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: The fault is in the theory not in the search

          Thanks for taking the time to write these very substantial and interesting posts. I had to look up a couple of terms (I have a passing familiarity with differential geometry but only a glancing acquaintance with cosmology, so for example the abbreviation FLRW wasn't one I recognized - but Wikipedia took care of that), but on the whole I found it about as easy to follow as one could hope from a few paragraphs in a comments section.

  8. tojb
    Headmaster

    no probs with magnets as far as I know

    ...magnetism is a correction to the electrostatic force, caused by relative motion of the charges. Because charges are moving, there is a Lorentz contraction and the local charge density appears to change, relative to stationary charges. Thus, a force. That explanation always seemed rather neat and final to me, pelase speak up if you have a problem with it.

  9. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    Boffin

    On constants

    Also bear in mind some physical "constants" are only such under a set of defined conditions......Change those enough of those conditions.

    Its convient to assume the speed of light is a constant (its not) and that its synonymous with "C". However whilst C is a fairly universal constant its only a top bound for the speed of light.

    1. Crisp Silver badge

      Re: On constants

      When is c not constant?

      1. El Andy

        Re: On constants

        c is the speed of light in a vacuum and is always constant. However the speed light travels can vary depending on the medium it is passing through, which is the subtly a lot of people miss, it's not always c (though it is never greater).

  10. ukgnome Silver badge
    Coat

    Erwin Schrödinger died 3 October 1965), and was buried in Alpbach, Austria.

    Question is - what's in the coffin?

    *the one that may or may not have a magazine about cat lovers in the pocket.

  11. Quentin North

    Dark energy

    There is some real dark energy in that tag, dude!

    Tags: Erwin SchröDinger

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > but that the expansion seems to be accelerating (which demands a source for the energy driving the acceleration, vindicating Einstein’s original demand for just such a constant).

    I guess it could be a constant if it was a function of the size of the universe....

  13. jke
    Paris Hilton

    You're all wrong

    It is all due to intergalactic slood. Nearly as easy to discover as fire and much more useful. Ask paris she knows all about it and so does Terry Pratchett.

  14. Marshalltown
    Pint

    Hubble

    Hubble called for revisiting the entire issue of "universal expansion" in 1948. He didn't like the idea and was dubious about the actual accuracy of the means used to estimate intergalactic distances. If the candles aren't quite as standard as one might wish, error creeps in. That in turn brought the correlation between red shift and any putative cosmic expansion into question. By then Gamow had grabbed to loaf and stuffed it with raisins making a homely metaphor that even English majors could feel they understood.

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