The universe is younger and expanding faster than we thought, a new study found — and we may need new physics as a result

Scientists are working to calculate how fast the universe is expanding.

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Scientists are working to calculate how fast the universe is expanding.
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BI

  • A new study led by a Nobel Prize winner found that the universe is younger and expanding faster than scientists thought.
  • Astronomer Adam Riess used measurements from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to conclude that the universe is expanding 9% faster than previous calculations said.
  • Reiss and other scientists think that both calculations could be right, which means that the rate of the universe’s expansion has increased
  • They think that “new physics” may be necessary to explain the difference.
  • Riess also calculated that the universe is between 12.5 billion and 13 billion years old – younger than the previous estimates of between 13.6 billion and 13.8 billion years old.
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The universe is younger and expanding faster than we thought, a new study found, scientists think we may have to work on new physics as a result.

A new study lead by Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Adam Riess, found that the universe is expanding 9% faster than previous calcultions that were based on studying the aftermath of the Big Bang.

The study by Riess, an astronomer at Johns Hopkins University, was published in Astrophysical Journal this week, and used new measurements from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to calculate the new expansion rate, which scientist have theorized for years.

But Reiss, and other scientists, think that the expansion rates concluded by both studies could be correct, which means that the rate of the universe’s expansion has increased – and they say that “new physics” may be necessary to explain the discrepancy.

Reiss said that the universe “is outpacing all our expectations in its expansion, and that is very puzzling.”

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NASA astrophysicist John Mather, who has also won a Nobel Prize, said that the two different expansion rates could be down to two things, The Associated Press reported: “1. We’re making mistakes we can’t find yet. 2. Nature has something we can’t find yet.”

But Reiss downplayed the idea that the results could be the result of human error. He said that the “mismatch” between the two rates “has been growing and has now reached a point that is really impossible to dismiss as a fluke,” he said. “This is not what we expected.”

Riess said: “This is not just two experiments disagreeing.”
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.
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NASA/Getty Images

“We are measuring something fundamentally different. One is a measurement of how fast the universe is expanding today, as we see it. The other is a prediction based on the physics of the early universe and on measurements of how fast it ought to be expanding. If these values don’t agree, there becomes a very strong likelihood that we’re missing something in the cosmological model that connects the two eras.”

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“It’s looking more and more like we’re going to need something new to explain this,” he said.
One theory suggested by Reiss is that the mysterious “dark energy” substance could have sped up the expansion of the universe.

University of Chicago astrophysicist Wendy Freedman also said that both calculations seem valid, and that “nobody can find anything wrong at this point” with either of the studies or their results.

Using measurements captured though the Hubble telescope, Riess also calculated that the universe is between 12.5 billion and 13 billion years old – younger than the previous estimates of between 13.6 billion and 13.8 billion years old.