The End of Everything by Katie Mack – Gordon Weir
The Unfinished Palazzo by Judith Mackrell – Cathy Bell
THE END OF EVERYTHING
When Katie Mack says ‘everything’ she really does mean everything, in as much as what she describes, with quite a bit of humour, is the end of the universe and everything in it. The content, made all the more enjoyable by Mack’s own evident enthusiasm for cosmology, includes various theories which attempt to describe how the universe will end. Also included, are descriptions, based on our current understanding, of how the universe works; in some respects, a level of understanding which is still in its infancy. A little quantum mechanics is also thrown in for good effect and alongside references to Star Trek, The Big Bang Theory and Battlestar Galactica, which I far prefer to, people like Carlo Rovelli (another physics writer), who, confusingly for me, quotes the Roman poet Horace at the beginning of each chapter. The overall result is an extremely up to date, entertaining, very readable modern take on the current state of this part of astrophysics.
So, I hear you ask, how will it all end and should we just leave the washing out and not bother about saving for next Christmas? Fortunately, the end is not that soon – or maybe not! Best read on before making a decision about the washing.
Many people are now aware of where, and roughly when, the universe began; as a singularity (a point or area of infinite density) that sort of exploded (The Big Bang) and has been stretching out in all directions for around 13.8 billion years. A word of caution however! Much about the early universe, and indeed the universe today, is open to debate. The reality is no one knows exactly what happened and exactly what is going to happen. Mack is definitely open to such debate and this, in itself, is something which makes you warm to her personality and her style of writing.
Scenario number one is The Big Crunch. We’ll know well in advance if this is our fate as we will first of all notice that the rate of expansion of the universe is slowing down. This though, will be something we notice well after it has begun, due to the time taken for the light from such far-off objects, such as stars and galaxies, to reach us. This will, however, begin to happen well after the galaxy Andromeda, which is at this moment hurtling towards us, has crashed into the Milky Way; a sort of a small-scale rehearsal for what is to come. Good news is that this ‘small’ collision between two galaxies it is not expected to affect our own solar system. Bad news is that earth will already have been swallowed up by an expanding, dying sun. Once the expansion of the universe has stopped, the next step is for the universe to begin contracting. Galaxies will get closer, eventually crashing into each other, setting off brilliant light shows for anyone around to watch, and super massive black holes, found at the centre of galaxies, will come together resulting in huge explosions of previously dormant gases, jets of energetic particles and spacetime distorting gravitational waves. And the end? A singularity; and possibly another big bang.