Estimated constraints on symmetron dark energy, a new model in which fifth forces between massive objects play a role in accelerating the universe’s expansion. Credit: Upadhye. ©2012 American Physical Society

Can dark energy be explained by symmetrons?

January 28, 2013 by Lisa Zyga

(—A field that permeates the universe and gives rise to a new force, or “fifth force,” between massive objects may be a candidate for dark energy and an explanation for why the expansion of the universe is accelerating. This field, called the symmetron field, is so named because it has a symmetry in regions of high density, while in regions of low density, such as a vacuum, the symmetry is broken and the field mediates the new force.

Currently, the symmetron concept is purely theoretical. But in a new study, physicist Amol Upadhye at Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Illinois, has calculated that a previously unexplored symmetron regime near the dark energy scale will give rise to a fifth force at submillimeter distances. He proposes that short-range gravity experiments can search for the fifth force at these distances and possibly reveal if dark energy is in fact a symmetron field.

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