Big Crunch

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An animation of the expected behavior of a Big Crunch Big Crunch.gif
An animation of the expected behavior of a Big Crunch

The Big Crunch is a hypothetical scenario for the ultimate fate of the universe, in which the expansion of the universe eventually reverses and the universe recollapses, ultimately causing the cosmic scale factor to reach zero, an event potentially followed by a reformation of the universe starting with another Big Bang. The vast majority of evidence indicates that this theory is not correct. Instead, astronomical observations show that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, rather than being slowed down by gravity, suggesting that it's more likely for a Big Freeze to occur.

Ultimate fate of the universe Topic in physical cosmology

The ultimate fate of the universe is a topic in physical cosmology, whose theoretical restrictions allow possible scenarios for the evolution and ultimate fate of the universe to be described and evaluated. Based on available observational evidence, deciding the fate and evolution of the universe have now become valid cosmological questions, being beyond the mostly untestable constraints of mythological or theological beliefs. Many possible futures have been predicted by different scientific hypotheses, including that the universe might have existed for a finite and infinite duration, or towards explaining the manner and circumstances of its beginning.

Expansion of the universe increase in distance between parts of the universe over time

The expansion of the universe is the increase of the distance between two distant parts of the universe with time. It is an intrinsic expansion whereby the scale of space itself changes. The universe does not expand "into" anything and does not require space to exist "outside" it. Technically, neither space nor objects in space move. Instead it is the metric governing the size and geometry of spacetime itself that changes in scale. Although light and objects within spacetime cannot travel faster than the speed of light, this limitation does not restrict the metric itself. To an observer it appears that space is expanding and all but the nearest galaxies are receding into the distance.

The relative expansion of the universe is parametrized by a dimensionless scale factor . Also known as the cosmic scale factor or sometimes the Robertson Walker scale factor, this is a key parameter of the Friedmann equations.

Contents

Overview

The Big Crunch scenario hypothesized that the density of matter throughout the universe is sufficiently high that gravitational attraction will overcome the expansion which began with the Big Bang. The FLRW cosmology can predict whether the expansion will eventually stop based on the average energy density, Hubble parameter, and cosmological constant. If the metric expansion stopped, then contraction will inevitably follow, accelerating as time passes and finishing the universe in a kind of gravitational collapse.

Friedmann–Lemaître–Robertson–Walker metric metric

The Friedmann–Lemaître–Robertson–Walker (FLRW) metric is an exact solution of Einstein's field equations of general relativity; it describes a homogeneous, isotropic, expanding universe that is path-connected, but not necessarily simply connected. The general form of the metric follows from the geometric properties of homogeneity and isotropy; Einstein's field equations are only needed to derive the scale factor of the universe as a function of time. Depending on geographical or historical preferences, the set of the four scientists – Alexander Friedmann, Georges Lemaître, Howard P. Robertson and Arthur Geoffrey Walker – are customarily grouped as Friedmann or Friedmann–Robertson–Walker (FRW) or Robertson–Walker (RW) or Friedmann–Lemaître (FL). This model is sometimes called the Standard Model of modern cosmology, although such a description is also associated with the further developed Lambda-CDM model. The FLRW model was developed independently by the named authors in the 1920s and 1930s.

Energy density is the amount of energy stored in a given system or region of space per unit volume. Colloquially it may also be used for energy per unit mass, though the accurate term for this is specific energy. Often only the useful or extractable energy is measured, which is to say that inaccessible energy is ignored. In cosmological and other general relativistic contexts, however, the energy densities considered are those that correspond to the elements of the stress–energy tensor and therefore do include mass energy as well as energy densities associated with the pressures described in the next paragraph.

Cosmological constant constant representing stress-energy density of the vacuum in Einsteins equation

In cosmology, the cosmological constant is the energy density of space, or vacuum energy, that arises in Albert Einstein's field equations of general relativity. It is closely associated to the concepts of dark energy and quintessence.

A more specific theory called "Big Bounce" proposes that the universe could collapse to the state where it began and then initiate another Big Bang, so in this way the universe would last forever, but would pass through phases of expansion (Big Bang) and contraction (Big Crunch). [1]

Big Bounce A hypothetical cosmological model for the origin of the known universe

The Big Bounce is a hypothetical cosmological model for the origin of the known universe. It was originally suggested as a phase of the cyclic model or oscillatory universe interpretation of the Big Bang, where the first cosmological event was the result of the collapse of a previous universe. It receded from serious consideration in the early 1980s after inflation theory emerged as a solution to the horizon problem, which had arisen from advances in observations revealing the large-scale structure of the universe. In the early 2000s, inflation was found by some theorists to be problematic and unfalsifiable in that its various parameters could be adjusted to fit any observations, so that the properties of the observable universe are a matter of chance. Alternative pictures including a Big Bounce may provide a predictive and falsifiable possible solution to the horizon problem, and are under active investigation as of 2017.

Experimental evidence in the late 1990s and early 2000s (namely the observation of distant supernovae as standard candles, and the well-resolved mapping of the cosmic microwave background) [2] [3] led to the conclusion that the expansion of the universe is not being slowed down by gravity but is instead accelerating. The 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to researchers who contributed to making this discovery. [4]

Supernova Star exploding at the end of its stellar evolution

A supernova is a powerful and luminous stellar explosion. A supernova is a transient astronomical event, occurring during the last evolutionary stages of a massive star or when a white dwarf is triggered into runaway nuclear fusion. The original star, called the progenitor, either collapses to a neutron star or black hole, or it is completely destroyed. The peak optical luminosity of a supernova can be comparable to that of an entire galaxy, before fading over several weeks or months.

Cosmic microwave background Universe events since the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago

The cosmic microwave background, in Big Bang cosmology, is electromagnetic radiation as a remnant from an early stage of the universe, also known as "relic radiation". The CMB is faint cosmic background radiation filling all space. It is an important source of data on the early universe because it is the oldest electromagnetic radiation in the universe, dating to the epoch of recombination. With a traditional optical telescope, the space between stars and galaxies is completely dark. However, a sufficiently sensitive radio telescope shows a faint background noise, or glow, almost isotropic, that is not associated with any star, galaxy, or other object. This glow is strongest in the microwave region of the radio spectrum. The accidental discovery of the CMB in 1964 by American radio astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson was the culmination of work initiated in the 1940s, and earned the discoverers the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Accelerating expansion of the universe Universe events since the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago

The accelerating expansion of the universe is the observation that the expansion of the universe is such that the velocity at which a distant galaxy is receding from the observer is continuously increasing with time.

See also

Arrow of time the one-way direction, or asymmetry, of time

The arrow of time, or time's arrow is the concept positing the "one-way direction" or "asymmetry" of time. It was developed in 1927 by the British astronomer Arthur Eddington, and is an unsolved general physics question. This direction, according to Eddington, could be determined by studying the organization of atoms, molecules, and bodies, and might be drawn upon a four-dimensional relativistic map of the world.

Bentley's paradox is a cosmological paradox pointing to a problem occurring when Newton's theory of gravitation is applied to cosmology.

Big Rip A cosmological model based on an exponentially increasing rate of expansion

In physical cosmology, the Big Rip is a hypothetical cosmological model concerning the ultimate fate of the universe, in which the matter of the universe, from stars and galaxies to atoms and subatomic particles, and even spacetime itself, is progressively torn apart by the expansion of the universe at a certain time in the future. According to the standard model of cosmology the scale factor of the universe is known to be accelerating and, in the future era of cosmological constant dominance, will increase exponentially. However, this expansion is similar for every moment of time, and is characterized by an unchanging, small Hubble constant, effectively ignored by any bound material structures. By contrast in the Big Rip scenario the Hubble constant increases to infinity in a finite time.

Related Research Articles

Big Bang The prevailing cosmological model for the observable universe

The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model for the observable universe from the earliest known periods through its subsequent large-scale evolution. The model describes how the universe expanded from a very high-density and high-temperature state, and offers a comprehensive explanation for a broad range of phenomena, including the abundance of light elements, the cosmic microwave background (CMB), large-scale structure and Hubble's law. If the observed conditions are extrapolated backwards in time using the known laws of physics, the prediction is that just before a period of very high density there was a singularity which is typically associated with the Big Bang. Current knowledge is insufficient to determine if the singularity was primordial.

Physical cosmology Universe events since the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago

Physical cosmology is a branch of cosmology concerned with the studies of the largest-scale structures and dynamics of the universe and with fundamental questions about its origin, structure, evolution, and ultimate fate. Cosmology as a science originated with the Copernican principle, which implies that celestial bodies obey identical physical laws to those on Earth, and Newtonian mechanics, which first allowed those physical laws to be understood. Physical cosmology, as it is now understood, began with the development in 1915 of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, followed by major observational discoveries in the 1920s: first, Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe contains a huge number of external galaxies beyond the Milky Way; then, work by Vesto Slipher and others showed that the universe is expanding. These advances made it possible to speculate about the origin of the universe, and allowed the establishment of the Big Bang theory, by Georges Lemaître, as the leading cosmological model. A few researchers still advocate a handful of alternative cosmologies; however, most cosmologists agree that the Big Bang theory explains the observations better.

Inflation (cosmology) theory of rapid expansion of the universe

In physical cosmology, cosmic inflation, cosmological inflation, or just inflation, is a theory of exponential expansion of space in the early universe. The inflationary epoch lasted from 10−36 seconds after the conjectured Big Bang singularity to some time between 10−33 and 10−32 seconds after the singularity. Following the inflationary period, the universe continues to expand, but at a less rapid rate.

Universe Universe events since the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago

The Universe is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxies, and all other forms of matter and energy. While the spatial size of the entire Universe is unknown, it is possible to measure the size of the observable universe, which is currently estimated to be 93 billion light-years in diameter. In various multiverse hypotheses, a universe is one of many causally disconnected constituent parts of a larger multiverse, which itself comprises all of space and time and its contents.

Timeline of cosmological theories

This timeline of cosmological theories and discoveries is a chronological record of the development of humanity's understanding of the cosmos over the last two-plus millennia. Modern cosmological ideas follow the development of the scientific discipline of physical cosmology.

Non-standard cosmology

A non-standard cosmology is any physical cosmological model of the universe that was, or still is, proposed as an alternative to the then-current standard model of cosmology. The term non-standard is applied to any theory that does not conform to the scientific consensus. Because the term depends on the prevailing consensus, the meaning of the term changes over time. For example, hot dark matter would not have been considered non-standard in 1990, but would be in 2010. Conversely, a non-zero cosmological constant resulting in an accelerating universe would have been considered non-standard in 1990, but is part of the standard cosmology in 2010.

Cyclic model cosmological model in which the universe follows infinite, or indefinite, self-sustaining cycles

A cyclic model is any of several cosmological models in which the universe follows infinite, or indefinite, self-sustaining cycles. For example, the oscillating universe theory briefly considered by Albert Einstein in 1930 theorized a universe following an eternal series of oscillations, each beginning with a Big Bang and ending with a Big Crunch; in the interim, the universe would expand for a period of time before the gravitational attraction of matter causes it to collapse back in and undergo a bounce.

Lambda-CDM model Model of big-bang cosmology

The ΛCDM or Lambda-CDM model is a parametrization of the Big Bang cosmological model in which the universe contains three major components: first, a cosmological constant denoted by Lambda and associated with dark energy; second, the postulated cold dark matter ; and third, ordinary matter. It is frequently referred to as the standard model of Big Bang cosmology because it is the simplest model that provides a reasonably good account of the following properties of the cosmos:

Structure formation The formation of galaxies, galaxy clusters and larger structures from small early density fluctuations

In physical cosmology, structure formation is the formation of galaxies, galaxy clusters and larger structures from small early density fluctuations. The universe, as is now known from observations of the cosmic microwave background radiation, began in a hot, dense, nearly uniform state approximately 13.8 billion years ago. However, looking in the sky today, we see structures on all scales, from stars and planets to galaxies and, on still larger scales, galaxy clusters and sheet-like structures of galaxies separated by enormous voids containing few galaxies. Structure formation attempts to model how these structures formed by gravitational instability of small early density ripples.

Future of an expanding universe Future scenario assuming that the expansion of the universe will continue forever

Observations suggest that the expansion of the universe will continue forever. If so, then a popular theory is that the universe will cool as it expands, eventually becoming too cold to sustain life. For this reason, this future scenario once popularly called "Heat Death" is now known as the Big Chill or Big Freeze.

Chronology of the universe Universe events since the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago

The chronology of the universe describes the history and future of the universe according to Big Bang cosmology. The earliest stages of the universe's existence are estimated as taking place 13.8 billion years ago, with an uncertainty of around 21 million years at the 68% confidence level.

Dark energy unknown property in cosmology that causes the expansion of the universe to accelerate.

In physical cosmology and astronomy, dark energy is an unknown form of energy which is hypothesized to permeate all of space, tending to accelerate the expansion of the universe. Dark energy is the most accepted hypothesis to explain the observations since the 1990s indicating that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate.

The Hoyle–Narlikar theory of gravity is a Machian and conformal theory of gravity proposed by Fred Hoyle and Jayant Narlikar that originally fits into the quasi steady state model of the universe.

References

  1. Jennifer Bergman, The Big Crunch, Windows to the Universe (2003)
  2. Y Wang, J M Kratochvil, A Linde, and M Shmakova, Current Observational Constraints on Cosmic Doomsday. JCAP 0412 (2004) 006, astro-ph/0409264
  3. McSween, Stephen A. "Dark Energy and the Red Shift in a Contracting Universe."
  4. "The Nobel Prize in Physics 2011". nobelprize.org . Retrieved 2019-07-14.