“The Big Rip”

Apparently there’s a new theory that says the universe will end with a totally outta-control explosion. Scientists are calling it “The Big Rip”, and it’s based on theories that the universe has “phantom energy” in it that helps explain why the universe is expanding.

There’s a great story on it in today’s New York Times, which explains our doom. Billions of years from now, apparently, phantom energy will be pushing the galaxies apart so quickly they’ll be near the speed of light — and the sky will go dark. The acceleration will demolish the galaxies:

About 900 million years later, about 60 million years before the end, our own Milky Way galaxy will be torn apart. Three months before the rip, the solar system will fly apart. The Earth will explode when there is half an hour left on the cosmic clock.

The last item on Dr. Caldwell’s doomsday agenda is the dissolution of atoms, 10-19, a tenth of a billionth of a billionth of a second before the Big Rip ends everything.

“After the rip is like before the Big Bang,” Dr. Caldwell said. “General relativity says: “The end. Time can’t evolve.”

The best part of the story is where the physicists basically admit that yeah, given how incredibly weird phantom energy is, it probably allows for things like antigravity and wormhole-based time machines. Antigravity and time machines, people. God DAMN do I love modern physics.

The Times’s web site gets bonus points for the driest copywriting on the planet: Attached to the news story is an “Interactive Graphic” illustrating “A New View of Doomday”.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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