Dr. Katie Mack explains what dark energy is and two ways it could one day destroy the universe.
- The universe is expanding faster and faster. Whether this acceleration will end in a Big Rip or will reverse and contract into a Big Crunch is not yet understood, and neither is the invisible force causing that expansion: dark energy.
- Physicist Dr. Katie Mack explains the difference between dark matter, dark energy, and phantom dark energy, and shares what scientists think the mysterious force is, its effect on space, and how, billions of years from now, it could cause peak cosmic destruction.
- The Big Rip seems more probable than a Big Crunch at this point in time, but scientists still have much to learn before they can determine the ultimate fate of the universe. "If we figure out what [dark energy is] doing, if we figure out what it's made of, how it's going to change in the future, then we will have a much better idea for how the universe will end," says Mack.
The expansion of the universe is speeding up—contrary to what many physicists expected. A "heat death" is coming, but it's not what you think.
- The expansion of the universe is accelerating as the force of dark energy wins out over the pull of all the universe's collective gravity.
- As every object in space moves farther and farther away from all other objects in space, the universe will reach a state of maximum entropy, and 'heat death' will ensue. As astrophysicist Dr. Katie Mack points out, heat death is not actually a hot phenomenon—it's also known as the "Big Freeze."
- Around 100 billion years from now, the universe will have expanded so much that distant galaxies won't be visible from Earth, even with high-powered telescopes. Stars will disappear in a trillion years and new stars will no longer form. The "good" news is that humans probably won't be around to witness the machine as it breaks down and dies.
While most of these deaths are driven by external factors, interventions can still help prevent them.
- A decades-long study suggests childhood interventions are effective against deaths of despair.
- The students who had interventions went on to drink less, engage in less risky behavior, and reported less self-harm.
- The findings suggest that similar programs have the potential to save countless lives.
The road to despair often begins in childhood<p> Studies have found that there are "behaviors of despair," such as a tendency towards suicidal ideation or substance abuse, which can lead to deaths of despair later. These behaviors are predicted by other factors, such as <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00917538" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">impulsivity</a> or a lack of healthy stress coping <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0306460399000581" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mechanisms</a>. In principle, these factors can be addressed by intervention programs. If these behaviors are controlled or prevented at the source, then the later deaths can be prevented as well. </p><p>Since many of these factors arise in <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-12-childhood-intervention-deaths-despair.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">childhood</a>, the researchers started there with a program that aims to give children the skills needed to avoid developing behaviors of despair in the first <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-12/du-cic121720.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">place</a>.</p><p>The program they used<strong>, </strong><a href="https://fasttrackproject.org/overview.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Fast Track</a> (FT), is an intervention program centered around the idea that multiple factors can leave a child without the social skills, academic preparedness, or ability to regulate the behavior that can help prevent them from having issues later in school and as young adults. </p><p>Starting with at-risk children in kindergarten in 1991, the researchers identified children in participating schools that scored high on a diagnostic for aggressive behavior in the classroom. These children and their parents were sorted into control and experimental groups. Those in the experimental group got the whole package of interventions. These focused on building the student's social skills, reducing their impulsivity, helping the parents form a more positive relationship with their child, and in-school interventions to help the student succeed. </p><p>Check-ins and tests followed over the subsequent years, in hopes of determining the success of the interventions. </p><p>The results were dramatic. There was an immediate reduction in aggressive or disruptive behaviors at home and school. While these benefits seemed to decline as the children reached middle school, they returned as they reached high school.</p><p>Later on, when the students began to report their drug and alcohol use, those who had interventions engaged in hazardous drinking 46 percent less than their peers who had not. Their weekly opioid use was 61 percent lower, and they were much less likely to report suicidal tendencies. These benefits existed for students of all demographic groups. </p><p> The children who were in the study are now in their 30s. With any luck, they will do better than many of their peers. </p>
Is death the final frontier? We ask scientists, philosophers, and spiritual leaders about life after death.
- Death is inevitable for all known living things. However on the question of what, if anything, comes after life, the most honest answer is that no one knows.
- So far, there is no scientific evidence to prove or disprove what happens after we die. In this video, astronomer Michelle Thaller, neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris, science educator Bill Nye, and others consider what an afterlife would look like, what the biblical concepts of 'eternal life' and 'hell' really mean, why so many people around the world choose to believe that death is not the end, and whether or not that belief is ultimately detrimental or beneficial to one's life.
- Life after death is also not relegated to discussions of religion. "Digital and genetic immortality are within reach," says theoretical physicist Michio Kaku. Kaku shares how, in the future, we may be able to physically talk to the dead thanks to hologram technology and the digitization of our online lives, memories, and connectome.
The rites we give to the dead help us understand what it takes to go on living.
As the coronavirus pandemic hit New York in March, the death toll quickly went up with few chances for families and communities to perform traditional rites for their loved ones.