October 23, 00

Vol. 16 , No. 03   


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The New Cosmology: Einstein's Biggest Blunder Undone
GREGORY BOTHUN
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2000

Gravitation has always been a question of, well . . . some gravity. Many great minds have mused over this seemingly simple force that causes all matter to attract more matter to it-from Copernicus to Galileo, from Brahe to Kepler, from Newton to Einstein. But lately there has been a problem with the commonly held theory of gravity that all observable objects-stars, planets, black holes, nebulae, etc.-account for only 5% of the theoretically necessary mass of the universe. The remaining and intangible 95% (referred to as dark matter) has eluded scientists for decades.

"We are really faced with two untenable possibilities," says Gregory Bothun, professor of physics at the University of Oregon. "Either we must believe in dark matter without really understanding anything about it, or we must believe that Newtonian gravity doesn't work the way we thought it did."

Bothun has made the exploration of this question his work. If he finds that there is, in fact, no evidence or need for the existence of dark matter, it would mean rewriting the theory of one of the most basic and observable forces of nature. Bothun began teaching at the University of Oregon in 1990, where he has also served as director of the university's Pine Mountain Observatory. As part of his work at the observatory, he supervises an educational outreach program to middle and high school aged students. Using the facilities at the observatory along with the Internet, he allows students to operate the telescopes at the observatory remotely. Because of these and other projects, he is considered a leader in integrating technology with teaching. Besides being the author of two textbooks, Modern Cosmological Observations and Problems (1998) and Cosmology: Mankind's Grand Investigation, Bothun is the scientific editor of The Astrophysical Journal. Professor Bothun also has extensive experience in operating space-based interments, including the Hubble Space Telescope.

Professor Gregory Bothun is Claremont McKenna College's 2000-2001 Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar