by Paul J. Dejillas, Ph.D.
If our Cosmos has its beginning that is traceable to the primordial single point, then, others would add that it also has its end. As the story goes, at some point in time in a faraway place and in a far distant future, the Cosmos will start to slow down its expansion and gradually begin to contract, leisurely journeying back in time to its original singular state in the Big Bang. Storytellers call this the “cosmic process of contraction and annihilation,” the “Big Freeze,” or the “Big Crunch,” where everything we see and will still see around us will in the end go back to its primal state, to be squeezed and packed again into nothingness that nonetheless harbors the presence of a tiny little dot that will be swarming with the same elementary ingredients, and awaiting for the proper time and appropriate condition for it to self-detonate and trigger another fiery explosion.
There will also be nobody left to witness the “Big Crunch,” for when the time comes for the Cosmos to begin its journey back in time, humanity has long been gone to observe the impending cosmic doom.
Astronomers, physicists, and cosmologists assert that our stars, like our own Sun, are continually under pressure to collapse by the clomping force of its own gravity. The more massive the Star, the greater the contracting force of its gravity. During most of its lifetime, the Star is able to counteract the inward force of its gravity by the outward pressure of its own internal hot gas and radiation which is provided by the nuclear fusion reactions located near its center. At a younger age, the Star is able to generate sufficient heat that can at the least counterbalance the pressure exerted by the force of its own gravity. But once this internal heat and fuel runs low, the law of gravity immediately sets in, leading the Star to finally collapse on its weight.
The Star derives its own heat or fuel from helium gases that that were produced during the first three minutes after the Big Bang, but which the Star also produces by the millions. But since the Star also produces heavier elements, which is in fact its main purpose for existence, the negative effects of these heavier elements ultimately takes its toll. When the Star has already reached the stage of producing iron at its core, then, the production of fuel starts to diminish rapidly, a downhill process that eventually leads to its own fiery collapse and explosion, and the star becomes a supernova. A Star, as big as our Sun, is estimated to last around 10 billion years; our Sun’s age now is approximately 4.6 billion years old and it has still around 5.4 billion years to continue giving off heat, energy, and light.
Nonetheless, a similar frightful event is expected to happen to our Cosmos. In 1854, German physicist Hermann von Helmholz announced that the Cosmos is indeed heading towards what was then called a “heat death,” a situation in which all sources of useful energy are exhausted. Now known as the ‘big crunch,’ this condition happens when the mass density of the Cosmos exceeds a certain critical value that will allow the force of gravity to prevail over it. Then, gravity will put a halt to the outward expansion of the Cosmos and eventually pull it back to where it has started, as physicist Sir Marin Rees argues in his paper “The Collapse of the Universe: An Eschatological Study,” written in 1969. As the Cosmos retraces its path back to where it came from, galaxies will begin to collide with each other (Michio Kaku, 2005:291-292).
Recent data from the WMAP satellite (for the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotrophy Probe, so named after David Wilkinson of Princeton University) favors the big freeze. A mysterious antigravity force is pushing the Cosmos apart, which is expected to end in a big freeze if the acceleration continues for trillions of years. The big crunch is described as a journey in reverse, back to the time of the Big Bang, when everything—including space, time, and the entire physical Cosmos—will be squeezed back into nothingness, into a state of initial singularity, perhaps awaiting once more for it to erupt into another fiery explosion. Davies and Gribbin, however, assure us that “if the Big Crunch is to happen at all, it is at least 60 billion years in the future” (1992:145, 175). The big freeze will then be the end of time and space.#