The End of the Universe: Dependent of Gooeyness?
The Big Rip, the Big Crunch, the Big Freeze, it pretty much sounds like a list of ‘big’ Hollywood B-movies. Funny as they may sound, these are some of the most fundamental theories for the beginning and the ending of the Universe.
Viscosity, that sticky, gooey consistency of things, could actually hold the key for astrophysics to determine how it will all end billions of years into the future.
The Big Freeze, for example, considers that all available material in the Universe used to form new stars will have been used up; existing stars would eventually burn out. Being the main producers of thermal energy, the cosmic eternity would then suffer from the cold vastness of space. Black holes, those enigmatic consumers of everything that crosses their path, will eventually evaporate -through a process called Hawking (yes, Stephen Hawking) radiation- as space becomes a cold living ground.
The Big Crunch, mostly discarded by modern physics, suggests that the gravitational pull of the mass present in the Universe will bring back everything together again; probably imploding and creating a new Big Bang, and therefore a new Universe into life (Figure 1). We currently know that the amount of gravitational pull required for this to happen is not present in our Universe.
Figure 1. How the Big Crunch works. [Credit: howstuffworks.com]
Since the decade of the 1990s, astronomers discovered that the Universe is infinitely expanding in an accelerated manner (Figure 2), so everything (including atoms) will eventually “rip apart”, giving the emerging Big Rip theory its curious name. This undeniable accelerated expansion requires that a little over 68% of all the ingredients that make the Universe is an exotic thing called “dark energy”. We know it permeates space, and that we need it to exist in that percentage to create —> Read More