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Dark energy and the elusive chameleon—more darkness from the dark side

NASA/ESA, The Hubble Key Project Team and The High-Z Supernova Search Team. fig-1
Figure 1: Type Ia supernova 1994D in Galaxy NGC 4526 (bottom left bright spot).


If you thought Dark Matter was strange enough—the new ‘god of the gaps’ in cosmology—the ‘unknown god’ used to force the ‘square peg’ of observational evidence into the ‘round hole’ of the standard big bang theory, then I say you have good reason to think again.

Dark energy is even stranger still. It is allegedly some form of ‘anti-gravity’ energy forcing the universe apart at an ever faster rate as the universe gets older. It has arisen from the need to fit theory to observational data that purportedly gives the distance to very distant galaxies as a function of their redshifts.1 Those redshifts are believed to mean that the universe is expanding, a claim I believe there is sufficient reason to doubt.2,3,4

However when two independent teams of astronomers used the Type Ia supernovae as a means of determining the distances of galaxies independently of their redshifts, they both discovered the same thing, that you had to add something else—Dark Energy—to make the big bang theory fit the observational data. I have previously pointed out the implicit circular reasoning in their methods, that is, assume the cosmology you want to prove, use that to select the supernovae you will use in your analysis, then use those supernovae to test your cosmology.3

Dark Energy, I say is just another fudge factor, because the theory is wrong and should have been rejected a long time ago. You might ask, what evidence do I have for such a claim? The actual non-existence of Dark Energy in laboratory physics is evidence for its fudge factor status. As it currently stands it is stuff stranger than fiction—it needs to have physical properties unknown to physics, as we’ll see below. Though that in itself is not necessarily grounds for its rejection, we must remember the origin of the idea—it has only been proposed because of the a priori assumption that the big bang cosmology and history of the universe is true.5

wikipedia.org fig-2
Figure 2: Chameleon.

Dark Energy has been given exactly the needed properties to make the standard big bang model agree with the observational evidence. As a result it is extremely elusive.

Wherever it has been sought it has not been found.

There are currently two leading contenders to explain its existence. Either it is a property of the vacuum of space itself, therefore it can be described by a universal constant—the cosmological constant—that is constant over all space and all time, or, it results from a new ‘fifth’ force in the universe, a new type of energy called quintessence. Quintessence, according to the theory, doesn’t have to be constant over space or time. It could have arisen in the early universe some time and may later gradually fade away.

The biggest problem with the cosmological constant is that the theoretical calculation for what it should be over-predicts the energy density of the cosmic vacuum by 120 orders of magnitude. That is, the value for the cosmological constant determined from cosmology is smaller than the theoretical estimate by a factor of 10−120. This discrepancy has been called “the worst theoretical prediction in the history of physics!”6 In cosmology this is known as the cosmological constant problem.

In particle physics, forces are carried by force carrier particles. For example, the electromagnetic force is carried by photons and the Strong Nuclear force—which binds protons and neutrons in a nucleus—is carried by gluons. One suggestion to support the notion of quintessence has been the hypothesis of the chameleon particle, which is its own force carrier.

“Chameleon particles carry the chameleon force, and just like their namesakes, these particles adjust to their surroundings to hide from detection. But rather than change colour, they change mass.”7 (my emphasis added)
“Amidst the high-density environs of Earth, the theory goes, chameleons take on high mass, and high-mass subatomic particles are difficult to detect. In consequence, the fifth force that they carry would become weak and all but impossible to measure. But in emptier space, chameleons shed mass. The fundamental force they represent would thus be felt over longer ranges, and could act over cosmic scales to affect the universe’s evolution.”7
http://news.berkeley.edu fig-3
Figure 3: Schematic of UC Berkeley experiment to detect chameleons. If they exist, they are proposed to have a very small effect on the gravitational attraction between caesium atoms and an aluminium sphere. Ref. 8.

This rings like extreme storytelling. As with Dark Matter, which is given the properties needed to fit theory to observation, but remain undetectable, here chameleons are proposed to do the same, and also remain undetectable. Thus its name. It takes on properties (i.e. it can shed mass ‘as it likes’) so as to defy detection in normal experimental physics. By comparison, gluons have negligible mass (measured to be <0.0002 eV/c) but the associated Strong Nuclear force has a very short range. This is the opposite property that is suggested for the chameleon. More darkness from the dark side of the dark sector of particle physics deriving from belief in the big bang.

Physicists Paul Hamilton and Holger Müller (at UC Berkeley) built a small spherical vacuum chamber and performed a very difficult experiment in a lab to try to detect the presence of chameleons but it came up nix.8

“They detected no force other than Earth’s gravity, which rules out chameleon-induced forces a million times weaker than gravity. This eliminates a large range of possible energies for the particle.”8

These types of experiments now abound in precision measurements labs, with which I am very familiar. In a laboratory experiment, I also have sought after elusive dark matter particles, actually lighter than the expected candidate dark matter particles, but nevertheless these type of experiments are essentially null experiments9 born out of a need to try to test elements of the big bang cosmology. But all these experiments, whether they were looking for Dark Matter or Dark Energy, have detected nothing, which is expected if the entities from the dark sector do not exist. And the investigations include experiments at CERN in Geneva and the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois.

To date we can also add the chameleon to the list. Either it does not exist or it is so good at hiding itself it cannot be detected. Quite convenient isn’t it?


Dark Energy has bizarre anti-gravity-like properties needed to propel an expanding universe into a late-stage acceleration. But the acceleration of the expansion is purely derived from a theoretical fit to observational data. If the theory is wrong then the rest is nonsense. And since the theory does not fit without Dark Energy, the questionable, unverifiable nature of the latter calls into question the validity of the former.

Could it be that these strange entities, like chameleon particles, which hide themselves from detection in lab experiments but are needed in the distant cosmos, where they indirectly reveal themselves through the application of the standard big bang theory to observational data, are just the by-products of a failed paradigm?

Published: 8 October 2015

References and notes

  1. In a big bang expanding universe the main measure of distance (and age) is redshift of the light coming from distant galaxies. The greater the distance according to the model the greater the redshift and the further back in time we are seeing. That means then high redshift objects are seen at an epoch in the history of the universe closer to the big bang beginning. It follows then that if you can independently determine the distance to a galaxy from its redshift you can use the distance (or actually luminosity) and its redshift to test your model. But to do so you need a standard light source, a source you know has the same intrinsic luminosity, to get a measure of the distance to the galaxy under investigation. For this purpose Type Ia supernovae are chosen because it is believed that they are accurately modelled and therefore they fall into a class of supernovae that all have the same intrinsic brightness (or absolute magnitude). Return to text.
  2. Hartnett, J.G., Is there definitive evidence for an expanding universe?, creation.com, August 2014; creation.com/expanding-universe. Return to text.
  3. Hartnett, J.G., Does observational evidence indicate the universe is expanding?—part 1: the case for time dilation, J. Creation 25(3):109–114, December 2011; creation.com/expanding-universe-1. Return to text.
  4. Hartnett, J.G., Does observational evidence indicate the universe is expanding?—part 2: the case against expansion, J. Creation 25(3):115–120, December 2011; creation.com/expanding-universe-2. Return to text.
  5. This argument does not commit a genetic fallacy because there stands no local laboratory evidence in support of its existence. The modelled big bang cosmology failed to fit the observed data so it was introduced. Historically it was introduced by Einstein as a cosmological constant to fix his static universe model, which he later discarded and discarded his cosmology along with it. Again it has been introduced to fix a cosmology but all laboratory evidence, as described here, is contrary to it. Thus it is maintained to be a true fundamental property of the universe only because the big bang cosmology is believed to be the truth. Return to text.
  6. Hobson, M.P., Efstathiou, G.P., and Lasenby, A.N., General Relativity: An introduction for physicists, Cambridge University Press, p. 187, 2007. Return to text.
  7. Young, M., Is Dark Energy a Chameleon?, Sky and Telescope, August 2015. Return to text.
  8. Sanders, R., Experiment attempts to snare a dark energy ‘chameleon’, Berkeley News, August 2015. Return to text.
  9. These are experiments that have yielded null results but where new physics was sought for. One example of this is a Michelson-Morley experiment, a test of the isotropy of the speed of light, c. According to Einstein’s special relativity (SR) theory such a test should yield exactly zero difference between the speed of light, c, measured in two orthogonal directions in space. But new physics is sought on the boundary of SR and quantum theory. See Nagel, M., Parker, S.R., Kovalchuck, E.V., Stanwix, P.L., Hartnett, J.G., et al., Direct Terrestrial Test of Lorentz Symmetry in Electrodynamics to 10-18, Nature Communications 6:8174, September 2015 | doi:10.1038/ncomms9174. Return to text.

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