In an effort to explain the accelerating expansion of the universe as well as the nature of Dark Matter, researchers have zeroed in on an upcoming set of experiments designed to measure time dilation.
According to the researchers behind the pioneering approach, these time dilation experiments should either add support to Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity and the theories of Leonhard Euler regarding the movement of celestial objects or open the door to a whole new understanding of time and matter.
Einstein and Euler Still Unable to Fully Explain Dark Matter and the Expanding Universe
When astronomers and cosmologists try to calculate things like the movement of galaxies or star clusters in the depths of the cosmos, they typically rely on two sets of equations. The first equations were created by the Swiss mathematician, physicist, and astronomer Leonhard Euler back in the 1700s and were surprisingly accurate at explaining what little astronomers of the time could observe about the movement of massive objects beyond our solar system. Those equations, which bear Euler’s name, are still in use today.
Equally significant was the work by famed scientist Albert Einstein, whose theory of relativity completely rewrote the book on physics while more or less adding significant support for the work by Euler. However, two relatively recent discoveries have brought the efficacy of Euler and Einstein into question; Dark Matter and the accelerated expansion of the universe.
Now, a team of researchers says they have developed a first-of-its-kind set of experiments around the concept of time dilation that they say should lend support for Einstein and Euler while explaining those two mysterious phenomena or offer a new set of equations that upend those pieces of seminal work.
Time Dilation measurement Tools Still Under Development
“The problem is that current cosmological data do not allow us to differentiate between a theory that breaks Einstein’s equations and one that breaks Euler’s equation,” explains Camille Bonvin, associate professor in the Department of Theoretical Physics at the University of Geneva, who is the lead author on the proposed study, which is published in the journal Nature Astronomy. “This is what we demonstrate in our study. We also present a mathematical method for solving this problem.”
Along with study co-author Levon Pogosian, a professor in the Department of Physics at Simon Fraser University in Canada, Bonvin says that some critical new tools coming online in the next few years will allow them to do something no one has been able to do before, measure the effects of time dilation to either add support for or against Einstein and Euler.
To conduct their experiments in time dilation, Bonvin, and Pogosian are planning to use a specific set of astronomical tools.
One of those systems is the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI), which began its 5-year mission in 2021 in Arizona and is already receiving and processing data. The second is the EUCLID space telescope, which will be launched in July 2023 by the European Space Agency (ESA), meaning it is almost ready to start analyzing data. The third tool, however, the international SKA (Square Kilometre Array) giant radio telescope project in South Africa and Australia, is still under construction and will not begin observations until sometime in 2028 or 2029.
Fortunately, the research team says they can begin their work now with the first two tools and then complement their findings with SKA once it is up and working.
“Our method will be integrated into these different missions,” said Bonvin. “This is already the case for DESI, whom we have become external collaborators thanks to this research.”
Time Dilation Experiments Could Reveal New Forces or New Matter
The details of their experiments and equations are pretty complex and mathematical in nature, but the short version of how they will actually work was laid out by the researchers in a press release announcing their planned experiments.
“If the time distortion (we measure with these tools) is not equal to the sum of time and space – i.e. the result produced by the theory of general relativity – this means that Einstein’s model does not work,” they explain. “If the time distortion does not correspond to the speed of the galaxies calculated with the Euler equation, this means that the latter is not valid.”
Thus far, the research team says they have successfully tested their model on “synthetic catalogs of galaxies.” Next, they will begin using the first data supplied by DESI, then add in the data from the other tools as it becomes available. Whichever way their analysis goes, the researchers say that something significant will come from their work, including the possibility of finding something never seen before.
“This will allow us to discover whether new forces or matter, which violate these two theories, exist in the Universe,” explains Pogosian.
Ultimately, using the effects of time dilation is a novel approach to trying to understand the nature of Dark Matter and the accelerating expansion of the universe, and something that has never been tried before.
“[Previously] we only knew how to measure the speed of celestial objects and the sum of the distortion of time and space,” explained Bonvin, although now he says “we have developed a method for accessing this additional measurement, and it’s a first.”