Study Backs Einstein Idea of Cosmological Constant

From Times Staff and Wire reports

An idea that Albert Einstein conceived and later repudiated as the biggest blunder of his life may actually have been correct. Recent astronomical observations and computer calculations suggest that the universe may truly contain a force represented by the “cosmological constant” Einstein proposed in 1917, a study says.

Einstein introduced the constant as a mathematical term in an equation that applied his general relativity theory to the universe. The idea got him out of a sticky problem. At the time, he and others believed the universe was static, neither expanding nor contracting. But his relativity theory would not produce that result. So Einstein added the cosmological constant to make his equation fit with his belief.

Adding the cosmological constant to the equation implied that the universe contains a repulsive force that opposes the gravitational attraction of mass. No such force has been detected.

But the assumption that led to the constant turned out to be wrong. Scientists later discovered that the universe is actually expanding rather than static. The cosmological constant fell into disrepute.


But there might be something to it after all, British scientists suggest in Thursday’s issue of the British journal Nature. They argue that the existence of the force represented by the cosmological constant would solve several problems with standard theory about the universe.