Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What If Dark Energy Were A Phantom Energy?

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let's remember that dark energy being a cosmological constant fits the data very well and has for years. That said, experimental constraints allow for dark energy actually being an exotic form of phantom energy. (So for the time being we have to allow for the possibility and work out the details.) This was recently done by Dabrowski and Denkiewicz.

What Is Phantom Energy?  Normal matter/energy in cosmology is classified according to the equation of state:

where p is the pressure and ρ the energy density of the matter/energy.  For radiation w = 1/3, for matter/dust w = 0 and for the cosmological constant w = -1.  What's interesting to note, looking at the image at the top, is the larger (more positive) w is, the faster it dilutes in the universe as the universe expends.  The cosmological constant is right at the point where it's density remains constant throughout the expansion of the universe.

Phantom energy is energy that has w less than -1.  If this form of energy existed, it would actually increase in density as the universe expanded!

Does It Fit The Data?  The best constraints on w for what is driving the dark energy is w = -1.05 +/- 0.29 from supernovae, CMB and 2dFGRS data and w = -1.001 +/- 0.0129 which hardly rules out dark energy actually being a form of phantom energy.

Furthermore, as the above plot shows, certain phantom energy models do fit current data, such as the supernova observations shown in this plot, and so we have to be willing to probe these models especially if they further go on to make experimental predictions. But do they?

Possible Experimental Prediction: A Sudden Big Rip.  First, as stated above, phantom energy models by definition predict w to be less than -1.  This itself can be measured and therefore tested.  Second, if we can somehow demonstrate that the energy density of the universe is is increasing with expansion, that would be a tale tale sign.

But lastly I want to discuss the big rip. It turns out, that if dark energy is driven by phantom energy, the universe gets ripped apart in finite time. More technically, the scale factor "a" controlling the expansion of the universe becomes infinite in finite time.  This means the distance between you and everything else in the universe goes to infinity without having to wait an infinite amount of time for this to happen.

In fact, a model discussed in this paper predicts the universe will experience this big rip in only 8.7 million years from now!

No wonder the authors call this model the "sudden future singularity" model. If the universe becomes singular, the scale factor "a" becoming infinite in only 8.7 million years, compared to the age of the current universe that will be one sudden singularity!

Conclusion.  I do want to remind people that the standard cosmology scenario where dark energy is a cosmological constant has worked so well for so many years that we have no reason to abandon it.  That said, dark energy being driven by phantom energy is technically a possibility and so we are justified looking into it, especially since it's existence may be experimentally verified/falsified.

Basically if we ascertain w is less than -1, see the energy density of dark energy increase with expansion, or find our universe suddenly being ripped apart we will know the dark energy is actually a form of phantom energy.

Let's hope that last one doesn't happen any time soon. :)

Mariusz P. Dabrowski, & Tomasz Denkiewicz (2009). Exotic-singularity-driven dark energy AIP Conference Proceedings, 1241 arXiv: 0910.0023v1


  1. The model is almost correct but the fact remains (t) is an illusion or rather construct for humanity on Earth by which to measure biological existence only. Gravity a push or pull? What precisely happened again at LHC?...Nothing notable or notably nothing as it could not "undo" itself. Learn to understand the limits with words alone or face the Big Rip in Real ity bitty moments individually. Boson Higgs and global temporal consciousness may be united or an "instance" called Humanity and it truly is a Present from positive light energies colliding in chaotic neutrals. Perhaps even only peripherally involved.

  2. Dark energy could be a lack of energy, so a kind of phantom.

  3. Nice article and Great information. Thank

  4. In dem zweiten Bild "redshift" sind die "m"-Stufen-Werte (distance-moduls) um 20 Stufen zu hoch gegenüber den Nobelptreis-Messwerten von SaulPerlmutter&Co. Warum soll das keine Rolle spielen auf die Quantität der "Dunklen Energie"?


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