Fundamentalist physics: why Dark Energy is bad for astronomy

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Abstract:

Astronomers carry out observations to explore the diverse processes and objects which populate our Universe. High-energy physicists carry out experiments to approach the Fundamental Theory underlying space, time and matter. Dark Energy is a unique link between them, reflecting deep aspects of the Fundamental Theory, yet apparently accessible only through astronomical observation. Large sections of the two communities have therefore converged in support of astronomical projects to constrain Dark Energy. In this essay I argue that this convergence can be damaging for astronomy. The two communities have different methodologies and different scientific cultures. By uncritically adopting the values of an alien system, astronomers risk undermining the foundations of their own current success and endangering the future vitality of their field. Dark Energy is undeniably an interesting problem to tackle through astronomical observation, but it is one of many and not necessarily the one where significant progress is most likely to follow a major investment of resources.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/0034-4885/70/6/R01

Publication date: June 1, 2007

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