Debbie's Pick: "The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking)" by Katie Mack
In 1920, Robert Frost poetically asked a universal question: How will the world end? He suggested fire or ice; “either would suffice.” In the last fifty years, astrophysicists have answered the question, and that answer is fire. In about five billion years, give or take, the Sun will begin to deplete its hydrogen fuel and swell into a red giant that will engulf Mercury and probably Venus. Earth will be a charred, magma-covered rock. So, that’s settled.
The next logical question is how will everything end? In “The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking)”, Katie Mack, an astrophysicist currently at North Carolina State University, explores five models that may answer this question. These models are thought experiments that extrapolate from the most current cosmic observations paired with work by theoretical physicists. And the models are wild. She lists them as Big Crunch, Heat Death, Big Rip, Vacuum Decay, and Bounce. Who wouldn’t want to know more? Exploding stars, colliding galaxies, dark matter, dark energy, black holes, entropy, relativity, quantum mechanics, particle theory, thermodynamics! Interactions among these elements of the universe are leading to discoveries about the beginning and theories about the end of everything.
A book based on astrophysics could be daunting, but Dr. Mack’s tone is light, her vocabulary accessible, and her analogies are easy to follow. This slim, 200-page book presupposes only that the reader is curious and willing to be open minded to some bizarre, mathematically based ideas thrown out by the universe—or multiverse as the case may be. The possibilities are abso- lutely mind boggling!
Book reviewed by Debbie Bandy, Neighborhood Reads Bookseller