TECH

The Universe Is Being Unzipped By Dark Energy, But Don't Worry It's Happening Slowly

Can we patch it back together?

10/11/2016 10:26

It has long been believed that the eventual demise of our universe will be slow and undramatic, as we gradually fade into oblivion. 

But it seems we may have been a little optimistic.  

Arctic-Images via Getty Images

This commonly held theory relies on the behaviour of dark energy (which makes up 99% of our universe) behaving in a way we anticipate. That it expands slowly until all the components - galaxies, stars, planets - are too far apart to interact and enter a Big Freeze.

However we don’t entirely understand (especially drawn out over billions of years) dark energy, so it is open to speculation.

And the new research, conducted at the Technical University of Lisbon, suggests that in fact dark energy will not expand steadily at the same rate for an infinite length of time. But will get faster and faster over time and start to unzip the universe at speed. 

Oh dear.

There are three ways this unzipping could happen, labelled by scientists as the Big Rip, the little sibling of the Big Rip, and Little Rip.

The main difference between the three is the speed at which things will come undone - an abrupt tear rather than a gradual rip. 

Fortunately they concluded that if dark energy is going to cause a tear, the Little Rip is most likely, in which the universe’s expansion slows down just enough that we experience a gradual unzipping, rather than a cataclysmic tear.

Although whatever happens, we’ve still got another 100 billion years to keep speculating. 

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