In physical cosmology, the Big Rip is a hypothetical doomsday scenario concerning the ultimate fate of the universe, in which matter – from stars and galaxies to atoms and subatomic particles – 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. The truth in the hypothesis relies on the type of dark energy in the universe – this is an unknown form of energy that affects the expansion rate of the cosmos.
Professor Brian Cox spoke to Professor Brian Schmidt in his two-part film, “Life of a Universe” to find out more about how this event might play out.
Professor Schmidt said in 2017: “If the universe has this dark energy, this stuff causes gravity to push away from itself.
“So as the universe gets bigger, this stuff dominates the universe more and more, because it’s part of space itself.
“You have more space, you have more dark energy, which makes it stronger than gravity.”
During the same series, Professor Brad Tucker explained how it could spell disaster for life on Earth.
He said: “You reach the breaking point, literally, when the fabric of the universe starts to tear a hole.
“The laws of the universe and the boundaries of the universe just start going haywire.
“That’s the Big Rip and it’s just one of the theories, there’s the Big Crunch and the Big Freeze as well.
“I love the Big Rip, because who doesn’t like a universe ripping apart?”
But Professor Cox had a bombshell theory linking the Big Rip and the Big Bang together.
He said: “The Big Rip idea can be combined with a theory we have describing the beginning of our universe, known as inflation.
“This describes a time before the Big Bang when our universe was expanding extremely rapidly.
“So inflation was that rapid expansion before the Big Bang and could be envisaged as the end of the previous universe that undergone a Big Rip.
“So inflation stops and the Big Bang happens, but what if inflation doesn’t stop all at once, it just stops in patches, so our Big Bang would just be a little event in an ever-inflating space.”
Professor Tucker said the idea was feasible.
He added: “When you look at it fundamentally, you have an energy that grows quickly through dark energy, before it rips.
“That would mimic pretty similar to what we think happened during inflation.
“We are pretty confident that inflation happened to get the universe we have today, so it’s not crazy to think these two things are related.