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The Stony Brook Press - Volume 32, Issue 13

The Stony Brook Press - Volume 32, Issue 13

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Moiz Khan, Mars Attacks, Bruno Mars, SUNY Purchase, Culture Shock, Fleet Foxes, Gears of War 3
Moiz Khan, Mars Attacks, Bruno Mars, SUNY Purchase, Culture Shock, Fleet Foxes, Gears of War 3

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Published by: The Stony Brook Press on May 06, 2011
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 Vol. XXXII, Issue 13 |Wednesday, May 4, 2011
The expansion of the universe is ac-celerating, and scientists have no ideawhy. Gravity should be slowing this ex-pansion over time, but billions of yearsago it shifted from slowing down tospeeding up.The cause is attributed to an un-known form of energy, and this energy makes up for nearly three fourths of theentire universe’s mass. Its name in sci-entific circles is dark energy, yet that issimply a placeholder until the truth isdiscovered. At Brookhaven NationalLab, cosmologists study dark energy, aswell as its companion dark matter, andconduct experiments in the hope of breaking new ground on the originsand current nature of our expandinguniverse.By the end of the decade, these sci-entists hope that a new tool, the LargeSynoptic Survey Telescope, will allowthem to plunge even deeper into thedepths of the sky. The telescope willallow them to collect enormousamounts of data with the hope that inthese troves of information lays the key to understanding what exactly dark en-ergy and dark matter are.“All we know about them is empir-ical. We don’t really have any theoreti-cal understanding of it,” says ErinSheldon, a Brookhaven astrophysicistand cosmologist who works with theDark Energy Survey, an internationally collaborative study that will begin col-lecting and analyzing data related to themystery this fall. They will be using afour-meter mirror telescope with theability to survey an expansive amountof space.Dark energy and dark matter aretwo terms now commonly thrownaround in academic circles, and evenused by amateur physics and astronomy buffs, because of the alluring mystery they provide and the large amount of research being invested in the field of cosmology, or the study of the creationof the universe. But to the untrainedmind, the two terms are easy to mix up.Dark energy makes up for between72 and 74 percent of the universe’smass-energy density, according to anumber of reports from NASA andother organizations that are fundedthrough the National Science Founda-tion. Its current and generalized defini-tion is the unknown cause for theacceleration of the expansion of the uni- verse.Dark matter, on the other hand,constitutes for between 21 and 23 per-cent of the universe’s mass-energy den-sity and is known as an invisible form of matter that is causing a noticeable dis-crepancy between what is actually pres-ent in faraway objects, like galaxies indistant clusters, and what we’re seeingusing our currentmethods. “Theproblem is that dark matter doesn’t emitlight, so we can only see its effectthrough gravity,” ex-plains Sheldon.Dark energy isby a widemargin themore compli-cated of thetwo. “Frankly,its vague toeverybody,even us.There’s lots of other kinds of theories, butnone of themare even ap-pealing,” saysSheldon, ex-plaining thatthe universe isthought tohave ex-panded after the Big Bang, and thenpulled inward due to gravity.“But instead of slowing down, itlooks like the universe started to speedup a few billion years ago,” he says.“This is a shock, and no one really hasan explanation for it.”Unlike dark matter, which was dis-covered in an elementary form in 1934,dark energy arose from the very recentdiscovery in 1998 of the expansion of the universe. The study of Type 1a (one-A) supernovae by the High-z SupernovaSearch Team posited this shocking rev-elation, which was then confirmed by Supernova Cosmology Project in 1999and then numerous other studies thatused various techniques in the yearsthat followed. The core of the discovery by the High-z team lies in the fact thatthe light emitted by supernovas was redshifted, which means that those celes-tial objects are moving away from us if you analyze a spectrograph that trans-lates light into wavelengths, but at an ac-celerating rate.“We know there is something thataccelerates the universe. We have thesimplest theory, and you put in by handand it explains the data,” says AnžeSlosar, a cosmologist and astrophysicistwho works alongside Sheldon at BNL,but in a separate project titled BOSS, orthe Baryon Oscillation SpectroscopicSurvey.Slosar is referring to the fact thatdark energy is explainable, and only barely so, through the use of a sloppy mathematical constant thought up by Einstein decades ago. It is a term that,once inserted, helps coincide gravity with the obvious discrepancies in themass-energy density of the universethat comes from its unexplainable ac-celeration and our lack of knowledge.“In the late 1990s, people workedout that we need to put in the term inorder to make everything work,” saysSlosar. “You take your Einstein equa-tion, and it turns out you can put theterm in there and you can describeeverything.”“It works mathematically, but it’snot nice. We are hoping the real theory works more beautifully,” he adds. So ba-sically, the scientists can make every-thing make sense on paper, but very much in the way a lazy physics studentcould ace a lab by working backwardfrom the right answers and tweaking allthe math. The scientists know what’shappening with dark energy, but notwhy or even where to look to find out.The LSST telescope is projected tobegin scanning the skies in 2019 afterserious delays throughout the latter half of the last decade. Sheldon and Slosarwill be some of the first scientists to an-alyze the data through their affiliationwith BNL.“Maybe with data, this break-through will happen,” says Slosar. But healso entertains the idea that this is anunreachable goal, that unification, atheory of everything and dark energy are just fleeting utopias in a scientist’sdreams. “It’s also possible that we willnever reach this,” he says. “Then we aresort of screwed. If you don’t have morethan one clue, then you can’t distinguishbetween the various ideas.”“The idea is to get more data. Getmore detail about the universe to seehow fast it was moving over time andsee how it started to speed it up,” saysSheldon.“From our point of view, since weare experimenters, we’re just going to goand look and measure the best we canand shed some light on it, get some kindof clue.”
The Dark Side of the Universe
By Nick Statt
 
A diagram of theLSST TelescopeCredit: Wired.com
 
The Stony Brook Press
3
News
Editors’ Note: This article was pre-vious published online by 
THINKMagazine
Editor-In-Chief Adam Peck.
When Alex Gecewicz and MikeRagonese heard the news that Osamabin Laden was killed in a US raid inPakistan, they each grabbed a pair of shoes, a flag, and left Mendelsohn Quadon a mission: to celebrate and spreadthe news to their peers.For two hours early on Monday morning, they toured the campus mak-ing sure that every passerby knew thefate of bin Laden and revel in hugs, highfives and chants of “USA! USA!”“You won’t meet a prouder Ameri-can,” said Gecewicz of himself. “We’rehere to spread the beauty of freedom.”Gecewicz was decked out in anAmerican flag, a red t-shirt, and skin-tight hunting pants. Between the two of them, Gecewicz was the more outgoing,luring anyone within eyesight into aconversation about the good news and,if they were willing, a photo op.Ragonese was the more reservedaccomplice, tagging along for motiva-tional support. A sophomore living inthe same hallway as Gecewicz inAmman, he is preparing for a summertrip to Virginia to attend the Marines’Officer Candidate course. He was sport-ing military-grade boots and a MarineCorp flag worn as a cape over hisclothes.The enthusiasm displayed by theduo rubbed off on just about everyonethey came into contact with. A group of about 10 fraternity members leapt intoa photo with Gecewicz, while twowomen accepted hugs on their way to-wards the Student Activities Center.At the Kelly Dining Center, whereCNN was being broadcast to the fewdozen students still out getting food,Gecewicz and Ragonese led an excitedconversation about bin Laden’s deathwith a few students sitting and eating.The motivation for the roving cele-bration stemmed from a realization of the magnitude of what had just been an-nounced by President Obama earlier inthe evening, said Gecewicz.“You can bet your bottom dollarthat there isn’t one firehouse in the city that isnt excited,” he said. “If there’s onemother who can say ‘my son didn’t diein vein,’ it’s huge. Tonight shows whatwe can do as a country.”For Gecewicz, who goes by Jiz (“It’sa long story,” he explains), Sunday night’s news represented a moment of triumph for the country and for thecommunity of servicemen and womenthat he himself had hoped to be a partof.The Albany native attended theChristian Brothers Academy, a military school where he rose to a JROTC pla-toon leader, before enrolling at Stony Brook, and is the first member of hisimmediate family to attend college.Medical conditions (“shoulder issues, aseizure and some other stuff”) renderedhim ineligible for military service, so hetook up football and was a redshirtedfreshman last fall.Listening to him speak for just afew minutes and it’s clear that Gecewiczstill cares deeply about the military andhas tremendous respect for everyonewho serves in it.“You can bet that those guys whodid this are not college educated, neverspent a day in a college classroom,” hesaid. “I wanted to serve because I really realized how unbelievable this country is.” Unbridled patriotism is not uncom-mon in times of national tragedy or, inthe case of today, national revelry. Butto listen to Gecewicz and Ragonesespeak about it makes you wonder if maybe, just maybe, we can put aside dif-ferences–politically, culturally–just longenough to make some progress as a na-tion.“I have a writing teacher who’s very far left,” explained Gecewicz, who iden-tified himself as a registered Democrat.“She’s made some comments that Imight have disagreed with, but that’s thebeauty of it; everybody has their ownopinions. There’s no race on this flag. Ireally think people should sit back andunite.”If you’re on campus Monday, keepan eye out for Ragonese and Gecewicz.They plan on continuing their celebra-tion another day.“I will definitely be wearing this flagtomorrow,” said Gecewicz. “I might bewearing pants this time.”
Celebrating the Death of bin Laden
By Adam Peck

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