Space, Physics, and Math

The icy fate of the universe

The universe is probably heading towards a “Big Freeze.” Here’s what that means, and why it’s way too early to worry

February 10, 2022
A photoshopped image shows a galaxy embedded in a giant block of ice
One day in the far future, all of the universe’s energy will be evenly distributed across the vastness of space. Astronomers call this the “heat death of the universe.” [Credit: Daniel Leonard | NASA and Pixabay]

Have you ever wondered how the universe will end? Chances are that the answer is “yes”;  humans tend to have an innate curiosity when it comes to morbid questions.

Scientists, of course, are no different. Cosmologists have pondered the ultimate fate of the universe, and many have converged on a theory: the “heat death of the universe,” also known as the “Big Freeze.” The Big Freeze theory suggests that, one day, all the energy in the universe will become evenly distributed, preventing any further action from occurring. In other words, the entire universe will essentially “freeze” into place.

To learn more about this theory and the science behind it, Scienceline’s Daniel Leonard sat down with a postdoctoral researcher in cosmology (plus another special guest). Listen to what he discovered below.

Solstice by Ross Budgen | CC by 4.0
Art of Silence by Uniq | CC by 4.0

Sound Effects:
Robert Frost’s “Fire and Ice,” read for Librivox by Alan Davis Drake | Public Domain Mark 1.0
Gong: Under the Home | CC0 1.0
Splash: lwdickens | CC0 1.0
Wind: Sound Effect Database | CC by 4.0

About the Author

Daniel Leonard

Daniel Leonard recently obtained his joint degree in the History of Science and Philosophy from Harvard University. While an undergrad, he wrote for The Harvard Crimson, freelanced for, and started a small YouTube channel called The Young Futurist. Daniel loves studying the intersection between technology and society in the human past, present, and future. Naturally, he’s a big fan of science fiction — movies in particular.


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