A mysterious force could annihilate the universe

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Brian Greene, professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University and co-founder of the World Science Festival, explains one of the most prominent theories of how our universe will meet its fate.

You can learn more fascinating science at this year's 10th annual World Science Festival in NYC taking place from May 30-June 4. Following is a transcript of the video.

I’m Brian Greene, professor of Physics and Mathematics at Columbia University and co-founder of the World Science Festival.

One of the great discoveries in our era is that not only is the universe expanding — something we've known about since 1929 — but it's speeding up in its expansion.

Everybody thought it would be slowing down because gravity, kind of, pulls things together. But no, it's speeding up. And it's even possible that the rate at which it's speeding up — that might increase over time.

We don't know yet. These are measurements and theories that are right at the cutting edge of thinking. But if the rate of expansion and rate of acceleration of that expansion does itself increase over time we're facing a curious future because it would mean that in the far future, the force that would drive everything apart would be so powerful that it would even drive matter to expand.

It would even grab hold of atoms and cause them to expand, cause them to pull apart into their constituent particles. So, everything, in a sense, will be ripped apart by this violent expansion of space. It's called the Big Rip. Is that in our future?

Nobody knows today.

But measurements are underway to try to see if the accelerated expansion is speeding up. And if it is, that might be the ultimate fate of everything.

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