Humans consider themselves as an intelligent species. But we don’t know what 95 per cent of the universe is or its age. Here’s why are still in the dark


The age of universe
The universe is now thought to be 13.8 billion years old.

Astronomers had felt pretty confident that they knew the age of the Universe. Derived from measuring exploding stars across the length and breadth of it, the figure they had settled on was 13.7 billion years. This work had been honed over decades. So it came as something of a shock when the Planck telescope showed that the Universe is more likely to be 13.8 billion years old. “It’s slightly surprising, but I think that every time you measure more precisely you should expect the central value to move a little,” says Dr. Rose Lerner, of the University of Helsinki, Finland.


Dark energy is powering the expansion of the universe, driving clusters of galaxies apart.

It is the biggest conundrum facing modern physics. Observations say that dark energy makes up about two – thirds of the contents of the Universe.Quantum theory says that it should bevastly more. To make matter worse,no-one has a clue what it is.Mostobservations suggest that it is someform of energy but some data is hintingthat it could be an unanticipated forceof nature.”That would be a game- changer in terms of what comes next,”says Dr Tony Padilla at the Universityof Nottingham.“We may be able to construct experiments to investigate anew force.”


What was it that sparked the universe’s rapid period of inflation.

No one can find a solution to what sparked inflation-the extremely rapid growth of the Universe that took place after the Big Bang. Scientists would like to find an answer in particle physics. However, this is difficult because the sudden expansion of the early Universe took place at vastly larger energy levels that can be achieved in a particle accelerator such as the LHC, the most powerful ever built. The hypothetical particle responsible is called ‘inflation’. Some scientistsbelieve that it is the Higgs boson,butthis is far from proven.


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