An Indiana University mathematics professor believes he and a colleague at Sichuan University in China may have found a way to modify one of Albert Einstein’s equations to account for a mysterious force which won its discoverers a 2011 Nobel Prize.
Professors Shouhong Wang and Tian Ma boldly went where many have gone before: to an equation Albert Einstein created in the early part of the 20th century to explain how matter and energy co-exist. But Einstein, Wang says, was limited by the time in which he lived.
“In a sense, we’re not saying Einstein is wrong,” Wang says. “Einstein just needs to be modified. Einstein is correct up to a certain time and spatial scale.”
Edwin Hubble, after whom the Hubble Telescope is named, also has a law named after him which says the universe is always expanding. Modern scientists agree that it is, but much faster than Hubble thought.
In fact, it is expanding faster all the time. That puzzles physicists, because with a finite amount of energy, space shouldn’t be flying apart at an increasing rate. It’s like expecting a car to speed up with no gas left in the tank.
Last year, Wang says, three physicists won a Nobel Prize for discovering what is known as dark energy – an invisible fuel of sorts which may make space accelerate. The task now is to take Einstein’s equation and modify it to account for dark energy.
If Wang and Ma are right, they may help explain how a lot of the universe’s mysterious forces work, including black holes.
“According to Einstein, you only have gravitation pulling,” Wang says. “But with this you may also have an expanding force – the force pushing things out.”
Wang says Einstein’s model works on a relatively small scale – for humans, planets, even galaxies. But to work for the whole universe, the math gets trickier.
He and Ma, a colleague with whom he’s worked since they were students in their native China, will now wait to see if the scientific community can put a black hole or two in the theory or if, as Hubble suggested, the universe of knowledge is truly expanding.