Universe May Not End in 30 Billion Years—It May Have Babies Instead

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In the Woody Allen movie Annie Hall , nine year-old Alvy Singer is depressed and has stopped doing his homework because, "Well, the universe is everything, and if it's expanding, someday it will break apart and that would be the end of everything!"

Actually, the 1977 movie was prescient because cosmologists had not yet discovered dark energy and the fact that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. In recent years, cosmologists havepostulated that the Big Rip in which all matter–galaxies, stars, planets, and even atoms–is torn apart into nothingness could be only 30 billion years away.

Well, there may be good news of a sort. According to a press release, University of North Carolina physicists argue that there may be a reprieve:

During expansion, dark energy—the unknown force causing the universe to expand at an accelerating rate—pushes and pushes until all matter fragments into patches so far apart that nothing can bridge the gaps. Everything from black holes to atoms disintegrates. This point, just a fraction of a second before the end of time, is the turnaround.

At the turnaround, each fragmented patch collapses and contracts individually instead of pulling back together in a reversal of the Big Bang. The patches become an infinite number of independent universes that contract and then bounce outward again, reinflating in a manner similar to the Big Bang. One patch becomes our universe.

"This cycle happens an infinite number of times, thus eliminating any start or end of time," [UNC physicist Paul] Frampton said. "There is no Big Bang."

The whole paper is at the physics pre-print arXiv.

So time may be endless and every universe fecund, so there's no excuse for not doing your homework kids. Now what's the public policy angle on this one?

NEXT: Second Prize is a Set of Steak Knives. Third Prize is You Have to Talk to Hugh Hewitt.

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  1. Now what’s the public policy angle on this one?

    Repeal the second law of thermodynamics? 😉

  2. It’s nice that existence might not be doomed after all, but what am I supposed to bring to the shower?

  3. Obviously, we need a Universal Non-Proliferation Treaty.

    With inspectors.

    Who won’t be allowed in to all the other Universes.

  4. Oh, by then post-singularity intellects will have converted the whole of the cosmos into computronium anyway…

  5. Nietzsche is happy, again.

  6. This is obviously false since my spiritual leaders tell me we are currently in the end times.

  7. The age of Big Universe is over…

  8. The Universe is an effective monopoly, and must be broken up to foster competition.

  9. We’ll, of course, need a policy of multi-universalism so that no individual universes feels inadequate.

    And Unitarian Universalists will be upset.

  10. Has anyone told Babs Boxer?
    I think she’s in charge of that now.

  11. Why is the Bush Administration callously ignoring this crisis? Shouldn’t we be doing something to save the children?

  12. In fifty billion years the sun will burn out, the earth will become a giant ball of ice, and none of this will matter anyway.

  13. Anyone else get the feeling they’re just making this shit up as they go?

  14. You live in Brooklyn! Brooklyn is not expanding!

  15. Billions and billions of universes….

  16. Must be global warming causing this 😉

  17. Anyone else get the feeling they’re just making this shit up as they go?

    I’ve thought that for years. It’s just a way to make sure they all have jobs. And disagreements about the nature of the universe is job welfare.

  18. Great Scott!

    ONE POINT TWENTY ONE GIGAWATTS?!?!?!?!

  19. Now what’s the public policy angle on this one?

    Go ahead, laugh at abstinence-based sex education, but needless to say the Universe will be a single parent, and every one of its infinite number of daughter universes will be illegitimate. This is the all-too-predictable result of 30 billion years of liberal permissiveness.

  20. Stevo: Good one!

    pigglewiggle & TPG

    “Anyone else get the feeling they’re just making this shit up as they go?”

    Actually, it is more or less implicit in the Inflationary Universe hypothesis, which was supported by recent surveys of the fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background radiation. The discovery that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating gave rise to the possibility of a “Big Rip” ending of the universe. That possibility depends, in turn, on whether the rate of acceleration will continue to increase over time. If it does, then a “Big Rip” appears inevitable.

    thoreau can undoubtedly explain this better.

    OTOH, it’s still 30 billion years away, minimum. I can wait to see what happens. [Sit around, catch up on my reading, sip some wine, have a nice steak, ride a few horses, repeat until the big show.]

  21. Actually, it is more or less implicit in the Inflationary Universe hypothesis, which was supported by recent surveys of the fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background radiation. The discovery that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating gave rise to the possibility of a “Big Rip” ending of the universe. That possibility depends, in turn, on whether the rate of acceleration will continue to increase over time. If it does, then a “Big Rip” appears inevitable.

    Stop making things up.

  22. TPG

    Alright, I confess!

    Otter and Beaver came to Manitou to complain that there was only water. Manitou took some mud and rolled it into a ball. He then blew on it to make it big, thus creating the world.

    Apologies for my earlier ridiculous speculation.

    ;P

  23. the scientific method pretty much boils down to making it up as you go along, then discarding what doesn’t work

  24. …the Big Rip…could be only 30 billion years away.

    Damn! Gave me quite a scare! I read it as; “30 million years away.”

  25. “This cycle happens an infinite number of times, thus eliminating any start or end of time,”

    Some theiste aren’t going to dig this cuz they claim that an infinite God birthed finite time and space. This enables them to escape objections of first cause.

    Of courese, I must admit that it’s about as hard for me to accept something physical being infinite as it for me to accept the existance of a God…Come to think, perhaps for some of the same reasons…

  26. Eppur si muove.

  27. “There is no Big Bang.”

    But can the repeated (ok, infinite) Big Rips explain the same phenomena that we take as evidence for the big bang?-Assuming of course, that objections to these phenomena as evidence for the Big Bang are not with standing thus making Fred Hoyle and Halton Arp wrong.

  28. …4:56 shoulda read (spelling errors corrected)…

    “This cycle happens an infinite number of times, thus eliminating any start or end of time,”

    Some theists aren’t going to dig this cuz they claim that an infinite God birthed finite time and space. This enables them to escape objections of first cause.

    Of course, I must admit that it’s about as hard for me to accept something physical being infinite as it for mr to accept the existence of a God…Come to think, perhaps for some of the same reasons…

    (F**k the Preview Button! Full blathering ahead!)

  29. Eppur si muove.

    So groovy for you to join us on this thread, Galileo!!

  30. Aresen | January 30, 2007, 3:54pm | #
    TPG

    Alright, I confess!

    Otter and Beaver came to Manitou to complain that there was only water. Manitou took some mud and rolled it into a ball.

    If there was only water, where did he get the mud?

  31. “If there was only water, where did he get the mud?”

    From the same place Cain found a wife.

    Logical questions are not allowed.

  32. thoreau can undoubtedly explain this better.

    Mmm … I don’t know. Isn’t he just into light and stuff; optowhatsit, Optometry? Yeah. What we need is someone who knows Astrology.

  33. The patches become an infinite number of independent universes…

    Kids,

    Continue doing your homework and try not to pluralize universe.

  34. This may be a silly question, but isn’t the concept of multiple universes contradictory?

  35. Hopefully someone will post a video of the Big Rip on YouTube, cuz that would be bitchin’ to see.

  36. I blame this on Mark Waid and that damned Hypertime he vomited up in The Kingdom

    Non comic-geeks go about your business)

  37. Sorry, but scientists have not “discovered” dark matter or dark energy at all. Isn’t most of this 100% theoretical?

  38. Eric

    “isn’t the concept of multiple universes contradictory?”

    Yes. But no one has yet come up with a generally accepted expression for the observable part of it and the parts we can never see.

    It appears that several names are needed:
    1) One to describe the part of the universe which we can observe, out to the point where the objects are receding from us faster than the speed of light. Since the Hubble recession determines this distance, I recommend the name “hubble bubble.” 😉
    2) One for the section of the universe related to the same inflationary event from which our part of the universe arose. “Inflationary domain” or simply “domain” might be satisfactory.
    3) One for the set of “domains” having the same natural laws as ours. “Common law domains” or “common” is a possibility.
    4) A subset of 3) would also be needed to distinguish those “domains” separated from other “domains” only by their quantum state. “Quansets” is a possibility, here.

    There may be other terms needed as well.

  39. Let’s consider a thought experiment. The universe is actually an enormous washing machine. We’re currently in the rinse cycle. I call this the Big Clean hypothesis.

    Naturally, the creator suggested, nay, demanded by my proposition is Mr. Clean.

  40. Before the beginning, there was this turtle. And the turtle was alone. And he looked around, and he saw his neighbor, which was his mother. And he lay down on top of his neighbor, and behold! she bore him in tears an oak tree, which grew all day and then fell over — like a bridge. And lo! under the bridge there came a catfish. And he was very big. And he was walking. And he was the biggest he had seen. And so with the fiery balls of this fish — one of which is the sun, the other the moon?

  41. Richard got the science wrong. Expansion isnt’ the same as rate of expansion. In 1977, scientists had known the universe was expanding for 30-50 years, there’s nothing prescient about it, and that’s what the Annie Hall quote said. They just didn’t know that the expansion was accelerating.

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