There has been endless speculation about how the world will end—nuclear war, engulfed by the sun, a collision with an asteroid—but what about the end of the whole universe? We know the Big Bang kicked it off, but what about its eventual demise? Astrophysicist and science writer Katie Mack takes a deep dive into this intriguing question in her new book, The End of Everything.
Mack divides the universe-ending possibilities into five scenarios: the big crunch (the idea that the expanding universe could be pulled back into itself); heat death (when the universe reaches maximum entropy, or disorder); the big rip (the ripping apart of the universe by dark energy); vacuum decay (the collapse of the universe due to instability); and bounce (the concept that the universe is cyclical, continually being destroyed and reset). She explains each of these theories in detail, using charts, timelines, graphs, cosmic maps and diagrams to help illustrate the science behind each concept.
These varying apocalyptic endings sound terrifying, but Mack tackles them with humor and authority. She uses scientific jargon that could be straight out of a science fiction movie, such as “particle horizon,” “cosmic inflation” and “dark matter,” and defines these phrases in layman’s terms for those of us who are more physics-challenged. She also makes complicated theories more accessible by comparing them to relatable scenarios. For example, she describes the continual receding pattern of a collapse-fated universe right up until the expansion stops completely as “that top-of-the-roller-coaster-moment.”
Ultimately, Mack takes an otherworldly subject—the death of the universe—and brings it down to earth. She explains her fascination with the topic, which goes back to her childhood, and even references “Star Trek” episodes to imbue heavy topics and terminology with understanding and connectivity. As a result, The End of Everything will delight both casual science readers and those looking for more in-depth analysis of theoretical astrophysics.