Good News: The Universe Won't End for at Least 2.8 Billion Years

Tuesday, 01 March 2016 - 4:24PM
Science News
Tuesday, 01 March 2016 - 4:24PM
Good News: The Universe Won't End for at Least 2.8 Billion Years
The universe will end in fire or ice, as they say, or more accurately, in a Big Freeze or a Big Crunch. Now, there's a new contender called the Big Rip, and it's not only the most likely, but the most violent scenario for the demise for our universe. Luckily, a new study shows that we can rest easy, as the most likely scenario for our universe's death will take approximately 2.8 billion years, at the very least.

There are several theories regarding the death of our universe, but the predominant theories have long been either the Big Freeze or Big Crunch. According to the Big Crunch theory, the end of the universe will be symmetrical to the beginning, and the universe will eventually stop expanding and start contracting. Ultimately, the entire universe would collapse into a dimensionless singularity, much like the one that started the Big Bang.

According to the Big Freeze theory, which has taken precedence over the Big Crunch in the last twenty years or so, the expansion of the universe will continue in perpetuity, and as all of the matter in the universe becomes more spread out, the stars lose the fuel they need to form and maintain their existence, the universe will become darker and colder, and black holes will dominate the universe. In the end, the universe approaches absolute zero temperature, work becomes impossible, and the universe suffers a "heat death."

Over the last decade, the Big Freeze theory has evolved into the Big Rip theory, which is rapidly becoming predominant among theoretical physicists. In this vision of our universe's future, the universe continues expanding at an accelerated rate as a result of increasing dark matter. As the amount of dark matter in our universe increases, the acceleration continues to increase until the fabric of spacetime literally rips itself apart. 

In this new study, a team of researchers from the University of Lisbon were able to model the earliest and latest time at which this universal apocalypse could occur. Using these models, they found that the absolute earliest the Big Rip could occur is 2.8 billion years from now.

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"We show that quite generally, the lower bound for the singularity time can not be smaller than about 1.2 times the age of the universe, what roughly speaking means approximately 2.8 Gyrs from the present time," they wrote in their paper.
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2.8 billion years is a very long time from now, but even this estimate was termed "very conservative." It would be extremely unlikely for the universe to end that quickly, as the entire theory revolves around the death of stars, and our Sun isn't expected to burn out for another 5 billion years.

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"The upper bound goes to infinity," lead author Diego Sáez-Gómez told New Scientist. "We're safe."
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Via Science Alert.

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