Universal Expansion Problem? Einstein to the Rescue Again…

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When There’s Something Strange in Your Universe, Who Ya Gonna Call? That’s Right. Einstein.

What the heck can I write about Albert Einstein that hasn’t already been written? I mean, Newton has a unit of force named after him. Keppler’s got a bitchin’ telescope. So does Hubble. Faraday has a law and a cage named after him. Galileo had a spacecraft named after him, and Copernicus has a spacecraft engine system named after him. None of these guys, though, has a name that is synonymous with genius itself. Einstein does. Einstein changed the game. Now that we have the instruments, scientists continuously confirm those his predictions and theories. Now one of the most notable and famous of his predictions could help solve the problem of universal expansion that I covered earlier this month. 

A Quick Reminder About the Hubble Constant

In the earlier article, we covered new data that conflict with the way scientists measure universal expansion. The same method they’ve used for the last thirty years or so. The long and short of it, so to speak, is that two different methods show two very different results for a number that is supposed to be—by its definition and by its moniker—constant. That number, of course, is known as the Hubble Constant. By the way, did I forget to mention Hubble had a non-constant constant number named after him? Well, that’s because it’s really damned confusing. 

Hubble used the best resources he had at the time to try and calculate the rate at which the universe was expanding relative to our position on earth. Turns out the number he originally calculated was leagues off, but the name stuck, even though the number continued (and continues) to change. 

One method—the one astronomers have been using for decades—calculates that rate based on the constant pulsing of receding stars.  The other method, developed by researchers in Europe, measures background radiation from the early universe and is purportedly much more precise. The two calculations are at odds by a significant measure.

Read More: We Don’t Know Universal Expansion as Well as We Think

What’s Einstein Got to Do With It?

Okay, I’m done with the 80’s pop song references. (We both know that’s not true…) Einstein, though, gave us the paradigm of the universe that allowed for gravitational lenses. And gravitational lenses just might save the day when it comes to Hubble’s Constant. Here’s a neat little video about how gravitational lenses work:

How to Use Gravitational Lensing Galaxies to Clear Up This Mess

By using gravitational lensing galaxies, an international team of researchers came up with a compelling new way to try and solve the Hubble Constant problem. The basic concept is this—and bear with me here: Gravitational lensing galaxies warp the objects behind them so much that they create multiple images of those objects called and Einstein’s Cross (so there, Hubble, Einstein means genius and he has an astronomical phenomenon named after him!). Astronomers can use the Einstein’s cross to determine the mass of the gravitational lensing galaxy. Along with position and velocity data, they can determine the galaxy’s actual diameter. Then they compare that data with the observed diameter from Earth. The difference in the two helps to calculate the speed at which the galaxy is receding.

In other words, these measurements could provide yet another data set for scientists trying to solve the Hubble’s Constant debate.

However, the team of researchers responsible for the latest study admits that their calculations aren’t as precise as current methods. They need more data. At present, they’re turning up numbers that are significantly higher than either accepted method. 

The more gravitational lensing galaxies are found, the more researchers can study them and perfect their calculations. It may take a little while, but the debate isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.


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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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