How Heavy Is the Vacuum?

Part of the SpringerBriefs in Physics book series (SpringerBriefs in Physics)


Well into the 1990s, most cosmologists preferred not to speak of the cosmological constant. This attitude was justified partly by the deep theoretical uncertainty surrounding the status of vacuum energy, and partly by the degree of fine-tuning that seemed to be implied in models whose density of vacuum energy was comparable to that of matter. Nevertheless the cosmological constant was trotted out whenever some crisis arose within cosmology that could not be explained any other way. Two examples that received attention in the 1960s were the concentration of quasars within a narrow range of high redshifts, and the tension between the age of the universe implied by measurements of the Hubble expansion rate and the age of the oldest stars. In the 1980s, vacuum energy was revived again to bridge the gap between the observed low density of matter and the expectation (based on inflation) that the total density of the universe should be exactly critical. The lack of anisotropy observed in the cosmic microwave background prior to 1992 was also taken as possible evidence for a \(\varLambda \) term. Tentative measurements of a nonzero dark-energy density were first obtained with counts of faint galaxies and analyses of absorption lines in the Lyman-\(\alpha \) forest, but seemed to conflict with upper limits based on the statistics of gravitational lenses.


Dark energy Cosmological constant Cosmic microwave background Galaxy counts Lyman-alpha forest 


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© The Author(s) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Science StudiesAarhus UniversityAarhusDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Physics, Astronomy and GeosciencesTowson UniversityTowsonUSA

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