What Is The Big Rip theory?

By Antonia Čirjak on June 1 2020 in Science

Big Rip theory is focused on how the universe will come to an end.
Big Rip theory is focused on how the universe will come to an end.
  • In 22 billion years, the expansion of the universe will become such a powerful force it will overcome the gravity forces inside that hold it together, ultimately causing the Big Rip.
  • If gravity overcomes the expanding force of the universe, the opposite of the Big Bang could occur as the universe would crunch into itself.
  • Big Bang happened approximately 13.8 billion years ago.

Everyone is probably already familiar with the Big Bang theory. This theoretical model explains how the universe was created after a huge expansion happened, which made the once very dense matter disperse and form stars, galaxies, and planets. What is the Big Rip theory, and how does it differ from the most plausible theory on the creation of space-time as we know it?

First of all, the Big Rip theory is based on the analysis and theoretical models that support the Big Bang theory; only it is focused on how the universe will come to an end, and not on how it all began. This is not something you should worry about immediately, as the postulates offered by this theory speculate how the universe will probably fall apart in 22 billion years, give or take a few billion. Why will this happen, and how is it linked with the Big Bang theory?

The Big Expansion

Approximately 13.8 billion years ago, the matter in the universe was so dense, and the temperature was so high, that the cosmological system could not take it anymore. Big Bang happened, and from that point onwards, the universe did nothing but expand: galaxies were created, suns and stars started to emit energy and radiation, and this little planet we live on was created. The universe is in constant movement, and we do not know precisely how big it has grown, but the fact is that galaxies move away from each other. 

The expansion of the universe from the Big Bang to the present.
The expansion of the universe from the Big Bang to the present. 

The question is: how far can they go, and how distant will these cosmic structures become? Well, for the Big Rip theory, they will continue to expand and travel, until that same expansion rips apart everything. Everything we know (and things we will possibly never know), all the galaxies, atoms, even the smallest subatomic particles will be torn apart. This is because of the hypothesis, which supports the claims of Big Bang theory, how the universe expands exponentially. 

Fear Of The Dark Matter

The Big Rip theory suggests that if our universe continues to expand in this manner, it will reach a critical point in space-time where the dark matter would overcome every other notion of matter and energy. Around 70% of the space we can observe is made from dark matter. We do not see it per se, but dark matter can be explained as a field that is applying negative pressure on the universe itself. This does not mean that dark matter is a box that contains the universe, quite the contrary. The expansion, or the observable fact of galaxies traveling away from us, is possible because of dark matter. 

This means that, in 22 billion years, the expansion nature of the universe will be stronger than the gravity inside the universe itself. It will happen because the universe is expanding exponentially, and once that expansion reaches its maximum, the space-time will literally be ripped apart. If dark matter outweighs ‘’normal’’ matter, not even black holes will survive this, as gravity and electromagnetic fields would cease to exist. After the Big Rip, the universe would be a rather lonely place, with nothing but particles that do not interact with each other, floating around forever. 

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