Understanding Dark Energy and Matter


Einstein's Third Biggest Mistake

By Mark Anderson


This week's issue is dedicated to my late father, Robert H. Anderson, who 23 years ago asked me if Resonance Theory could explain dark energy.


If you ask any physicist or cosmologist, "What was Einstein's biggest mistake?" they will inevitably mention the cosmological constant within general relativity, which he publicly waffled on in an embarrassing series of changes.

However, that would be wrong.

Longtime SNS members will recall our issue of 18 years ago by the same name ("SNS: Einstein's Biggest Mistake," 6/17/03) and its rather amazing backstory. Having stuck my neck out by insisting that this "honor" should go to Einstein's decision to ignore the aether, I published the same and later shared it and related work with my friend, author Walter Isaacson, as he embarked on his now-famous biography of the great scientist.

And it was Walter, when I saw him a year later in Aspen, who insisted that not only had I gotten it right, but that Einstein himself, in a speech at the University of Leiden in 1920, had said exactly the same thing. Here are Einstein's words from that day (emphasis mine):

Recapitulating, we may say that according to the general theory of relativity, space is endowed with physical qualities; in this sense, therefore, there exists an ether.


In fact, by declaring (my paraphrase) "since we have no need of the ether, we shall never refer to it again" in his book with Louis Infeld, he made the most tragic mistake of his career. Among other costs, it directly prevented him from achieving his highest and lifelong goal, the discovery of a unified field theory that united general relativity with quantum mechanics.

As for the shenanigans with the cosmological constant - the parameter that measures the expansion of the universe itself - we'll come back to that in a bit to see whether, after all the jiggering, he didn't make an even greater error there, again caused by ignoring space itself.


The Resonance Theory Programme

In this discussion, we will refer in general to Resonance Theory, which has been laid out in previous issues of SNS ("SNS: Resonance Theory," 7/28/11; "SNS: Resonance Theory: Part II," 8/27/20; and "SNS: Resonance Theory: Part III," 9/1/20). Almost all of the ideas and work described in these issues were originally concluded, after two years of effort, in 1979, with the first dated and serial-numbered submission to Physical Review Letters D being in 1981. Of course, PRL didn't publish it, since it used new string geometries made of otherwise-empty space, rather than the fields that the peer reviewers were accustomed to.

The original paper can be found here:

And the supporting documents, here:

British physicist Michael Green was allowed to publish his string-theory paper in that same time frame (1980). And although Resonance is more than a string theory (it provides the fundamental connections to space itself that modern string, etc., theories missed), it can be said to have been, to the best of my knowledge, perhaps the first or second paper to propose this set of ideas and much, much more.

What we care about most in today's discussion is the concluding sentence of the first paper:

"The final conclusion of the theory must be that the properties of physical events are the properties of space."

Another, more recent, interpretation is: "The laws of physics derive directly from the physical properties of otherwise-empty space."

Why do we care?

For the purposes of this week's discussion, we care because we are proposing a resolution to perhaps the largest problem in cosmology: the explanation of dark energy and dark matter.


Dark Energy

We need to start with the problem at hand: About 95% of the combined matter and energy of the universe is "dark" - i.e., not yet explained by physics. Here is a header from a recent article in Astronomy:

Our universe is dominated by mysterious and invisible forms of matter and energy that have yet to be fully (or even adequately) understood.

And a brief introduction to both dark energy and dark matter, from the same source:

Most of our universe is hidden in plain sight. Though we can't see or touch it, most astronomers say the majority of the cosmos consists of dark matter and dark energy. But what is this mysterious, invisible stuff that surrounds us? And what's the difference between dark energy and dark matter? In short, dark matter slows down the expansion of the universe, while dark energy speeds it up.

Dark matter works like an attractive force - a kind of cosmic cement that holds our universe together. This is because dark matter does interact with gravity, but it doesn't reflect, absorb, or emit light. Meanwhile, dark energy is a repulsive force - a sort of anti-gravity - that drives the universe's ever-accelerating expansion.

Dark energy is the far more dominant force of the two, accounting for roughly 68 percent of the universe's total mass and energy. Dark matter makes up 27 percent. And the rest - a measly 5 percent - is all the regular matter we see and interact with every day.

And here's a rather weird and fascinating image, from the same source:


Two galaxy clusters collided to create the "Bullet Cluster," shown here. Normal matter is shown in pink and the rest of the matter is illustrated in blue, revealing that dark matter dominates this enormous cluster. Source: X-ray: NASA / CXC / CfA / M.Markevitch et al.; Optical: NASA / STScI; Magellan / U.Arizona / D.Clowe et al.; Lensing Map: NASA / STScI; ESO WFI; Magellan / U.Arizona / D.Clowe et al.

Here is an even more interesting NASA photo:

Stars and galaxies in space  Description automatically generated with medium confidence

Dark matter cannot be photographed, but researchers can detect it and map it by measuring gravitational lensing. Its distribution is shown here in the blue overlay of the inner region of Abell 1689, a cluster of galaxies 2.2 billion light-years away. Source: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech/Yale/CNRS

What's the problem, then? This is the problem (ibid.):

For decades, physicists all over the world have employed increasingly high-tech instruments to try and detect dark matter. So far, they've found no signs of it.

And then we have the larger problem, numerically, of dark energy. Again, from Astronomy:

Astronomers have known that our universe is expanding for about a century now. Telescopic observations have shown that most galaxies are moving away from each other, which implies the galaxies were closer together in the distant past. As a result, the evidence piled up for the Big Bang. However, astronomers assumed that the combined gravitational pull of all the cosmos' stars and galaxies should be slowing down the universe's expansion. Perhaps it would even someday collapse back in on itself in a Big Crunch.

That notion was thrown out in the late 1990s, however, when two teams of astronomers spotted something that didn't make any sense. Researchers studying supernovas in the the most distant galaxies discovered that distant galaxies were moving away from us faster than nearby galaxies. The universe wasn't just expanding - the expansion was speeding up.

"My own reaction is somewhere between amazement and horror," astronomer Brian Schmidt, who led one of the two teams, told The New York Times in 1998. "Amazement, because I just did not expect this result, and horror in knowing that it will likely be disbelieved by a majority of astronomers - who, like myself, are extremely skeptical of the unexpected."

And this final quote brings us to the reason for excitement over this week's proposed discoveries:

... [S]ubsequent observations have only made the evidence for dark energy more robust. In fact, some prominent critics of dark matter still accept the existence of dark energy.

Now, that doesn't mean researchers know what dark energy is. Far from it. But they can describe its role in the universe, thanks to Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity. Einstein didn't know about dark energy, but his equations suggested new space can come into existence. And he also included a fudge factor in relativity called the cosmological constant, which he added - and later regretted - to keep the universe from collapsing inward. This idea allows space itself to have energy. However, scientists have still never actually seen this force on Earth.

Some theoretical physicists think there's an entire dark realm of particles and forces out there, just waiting to be discovered. Whatever dark energy and dark matter are made of, they seem to be playing tug-of-war with our universe - both holding it together and pulling it apart

Spoiler alert - I'm going to telegraph my pitch here:

As laid out in Resonance Theory, dark matter and dark energy are made of space itself.


The Hubble Red Shift

Most people are familiar with the downward Doppler shift of sound as a train whistle passes an observer. The same is the case for light: the emission lines of light given off by hydrogen atoms - for instance, in distant stars - is shifted down when the stars are moving away from us.

In the Big Bang theory of how the universe began, the idea is that as we look at stars, they have a red shift based on their speed away from us. Moreover, this shift increases with their distance, supposedly indicating that the expansion of the universe is accelerating with distance from us.

Pretty Earth-centric, it seems. Of course, there are today all kinds of maneuvers that make it seem like this is not the case, or, at best, that it makes some kind of sense.

Suffice it to say that this is the bible, the Standard Model.

It is equally important to note that when astronomers look at the sky, they tend to see heavenly bodies embedded in emptiness. Sure, there are dust clouds, gravity lenses, all kinds of collisions and events, but we're talking about billiard balls hung in empty space. Space itself is a void.

Not according to Resonance Theory.


On the Deck with Chuck House

Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting on the water-facing deck of the Beach Palace Hotel II (my office) with my friend Chuck House, talking about Resonance Theory. This prompted his mention that Nobel physicist Kip Thorne is a longtime friend of his. And that led me to note that I have been a fan of Kip's since he first published papers on unexpected values of red shift for stars of apparently one grouping.

In other words, stars that seemed obviously in the same group, and therefore should have had the same red shift, do not, but rather have surprisingly different values, suggesting that the basic assumptions about red shift correlations with speed and/or distance were incomplete at best.

It was at that point that about 40 years of observations on my part clicked into what now seems like a major pattern discovery.

Since Chuck was apparently accepting my outrageous views from Resonance Theory, I mentioned this aspect of Kip's work, of which he was unaware. And then all of the past patterns clicked into place.

What if - I asked - the explanation for these observations was that the stars are indeed in the same grouping, but since we know empty space is not empty at all, but has pronounced and definable physical characteristics (permittivity, permeability, mass), the variance in red shifts per star is caused instead by different densities of space between us and each star (or galaxy)?

In other words, since space is not empty, maybe variable density of space itself explains an important part of the Hubble red shift.

No one is doubting that the Doppler effect is real, but neither does anyone really know much about star distances, except by applying Hubble's red shift.

Beginning with the Resonance understanding that light, electrons, protons - all matter - are made of resonant vibrations of space itself, we now can look at the cosmos with new eyes, seeing something completely inverted. Rather than bodies embedded in a void, we see nothing but space-stuff, presented in different ways: light, matter, antimatter, dark matter, dark energy. There is no void - only bright spots where long-term vibrations have built up into structures like electrons, planets, stars, galaxies, black holes.

To say that 95% of the universe is dark is like saying that 95% of a pond does not have ripples at the moment. It happens, but it certainly is not amazing. It's normal.


Inverting the Science

The next day, I brought up this talk with Chuck in a different conversation. As I talked the ideas through, it occurred to me that we were still looking at Kip's observations from a completely backward view - i.e., heavenly bodies in the void.

What if, I suggested, we flipped that view to Resonance Theory and asked: What would be the very best way to see if Resonance applies to cosmology? In fact, we would do what Einstein would have done (and many others have since), finding obvious violations of the Hubble red shift and looking for explanations beyond the current dogma.

Today, I've just discovered, this hunt has a name: shifts that vary are called "peculiar," and there are myriad examples. The current view seems to be that total red shift of a heavenly body is composed of Hubble red shift plus peculiar red shift, giving the total shift.

This seems to be saying that the universe appears to us as Doppler Plus Resonance.

Let's dive a little deeper.


Spacetime and the Rubber Sheet

Let's put the red shift aside for a moment and look at light and space.

The first proof of Einstein's general relativity, and its quick acceptance by the science community, came as the result of an astronomy experiment measuring the bending of light by a gravitational field.

Today, astronomers are aware of countless examples of this phenomenon, and of gravitational lensing of other sorts, whereby the density of "spacetime" alters the path of light.

A few years ago, I was enjoying an excellent exhibit of Einstein's work at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. (This included the original paper on special relativity, in German - and English - underlining my belief that the equation E=MC2 was a complete non-sequitur, a lightning bolt out of nowhere.) An unfortunate docent was explaining spacetime curvature to a fellow visitor within earshot, while standing before the famous poster showing spacetime as a rubber sheet deformed by a large, heavy ball at its center.

"How can you say there is no aether," I asked her, "when you're standing in front of a picture of it?" That conversation, needless to say, did not go anywhere.

Today, all astronomers believe that space can bend light; in general, they refer to the gravitational effects without asking the deeper question of how gravity actually works. They know the general-relativity mathematics works well, without really knowing what spacetime is. In some ways, this is no different from knowing that quantum electrodynamics mathematics works well, without really understanding what an electron is made of. Or why the many versions of string theory and brane theory are falling out of favor because the math works well, but no one can connect it back to, yes, the physical properties of space.

In other words, gravity and its math are almost certainly describing not the curvature of spacetime, but the density variations of space itself.

The widespread discovery of red-shift peculiarities, particularly those not caused by gravitational bodies, provides additional strong evidence that the density of space varies quite markedly, aside from gravitational effects.

Is this surprising? No. It's exactly what Resonance predicts, and what we should all expect right after we accept lensing.

Is it important? Absolutely.


Einstein's Third Biggest Mistake

If dismissing forevermore the concept of the aether, of the substantial nature of otherwise empty space, was, by his own admission, Einstein's biggest mistake; and if the futzing with his cosmological constant in general relativity was indeed his second; was there a third?


Einstein's third biggest mistake, in some related order, was a direct result of his first two: he failed to interpret his brilliant equations in general relativity as the measurement of the density of space itself. In doing so, he also missed the meaning or interpretation of the cosmological constant, which showed not the expansion rate of the universe, but the increasing density effects of space with distance, gravity, and other factors.

Perhaps, as a side benefit, by redefining spacetime in this way we will finally acquire a new and better understanding of time itself.



In this discussion, I am proposing that there is an alternative, and better, interpretation of the Hubble red shift and of certain red-shift peculiarities, and that these are directly attributable to what have been called "dark energy" and "dark matter."

While a huge amount of work now remains to be done in reinterpreting the cosmos, this revelation opens the door to such work. Questions regarding the so-called Big Bang theory are obvious, as are calculations of distance, age, and expansion rate. Re-envisioning all of this in terms of special density changes everything.

And here is the related question:

Since we have heretofore inferred both cosmic distance and expansion via increasing red shifts, is it possible that our measurements are actually of the energy and mass-density properties of space itself?


As Yeats wrote in his poem "Easter, 1916":

All changed, changed utterly:  

A terrible beauty is born.


Which we must now recast with some excitement:

All changed, changed utterly:  

A wonderful beauty is born.


Since I will never qualify for the Nobel Prize, I would like to suggest that some bright student at Stanford or Princeton pick this up and grab the prize. And maybe include me in the final toast at Stockholm.


Your comments are always welcome.



Mark Anderson


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As president of mPedigree, Bright Simons has worked for more than a decade across three continents to promote solutions to the fraud, counterfeiting, and corruption crisis in global health and food security, as well as other transparency and governance domains. He bridges grassroots invention with the industrial scale of the Fortune 100 and combines patent-pending work in smart sensors for bio-med cold chains with civic-reform activism.

Bright writes periodically for the likes of Harvard Business ReviewQuartz, the BBC's Business Daily Show, and the Huffington Post. He has served as a board-level advisor to Care International, the Africa Population Health Research Center, Microsoft Africa Advisory Council, RED Media, the Lancet Commission on the Future of Health in Africa, the Center for Global Development's Study Group on Technology, the World Economic Forum's Africa Strategy Group, the IMANI Center for Policy & Education, and the inaugural Ashoka Globalizer initiative, among others.

Bright consistently connects powerful action on the periphery with forceful advocacy in the halls of global thought leadership. For this commitment, he has been recognized in MIT's Tech Review list of 35 Innovators Under 35 as one of the most impressive global technology visionaries and in Quartz's top 30 innovators list; and he was the 2016 CNBC All-Africa Business Leader of the Year, for innovation. Furthermore, Fortune magazine named him on its "World's 50 Greatest Leaders" list in 2016.

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