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The End of Everything

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You're going to die. The Earth will, one day, be toast. So too, our Sun will eventually shine its last. But what's next?

The End of Everything is a unique exploration of the destruction of the cosmos. Drawing on cutting edge technology and theory, as well as hot-off-the-presses results from the most powerful telescopes and particle colliders, astrophysicist Katie Mack describes how small tweaks to our incomplete understanding of reality can result in starkly different futures. Our universe could collapse in upon itself, or rip itself apart, or even - in the next five minutes - succumb to an inescapable expanding bubble of doom.

This fascinating, witty story of cosmic escapism examines a beautiful but unfamiliar physics landscape while sharing the excitement a leading astrophysicist feels when thinking about the universe and our place in it. Amid stellar explosions and bouncing universes, Mack shows that even though we puny humans have no chance of changing how it all ends, we can at least begin to understand it.

226 pages, Kindle Edition

First published August 4, 2020

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About the author

Katie Mack

1 book548 followers
Dr Katherine (Katie) Mack is a theoretical astrophysicist who studies a range of questions in cosmology, the study of the universe from beginning to end. She currently holds the position of Assistant Professor of Physics at North Carolina State University, where she is also a member of the Leadership in Public Science Cluster. Throughout her career she has studied dark matter, the early universe, galaxy formation, black holes, cosmic strings, and the ultimate fate of the cosmos. Alongside her academic research, she is an active science communicator and has been published in a number of popular publications such as Scientific American, The New York Times, Slate, Sky & Telescope, and Cosmos Magazine, where she is a columnist.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,207 reviews
Profile Image for Nataliya.
713 reviews11.3k followers
February 2, 2022
Cosmology is a fascinating field, especially to those non-physicist lay people like yours truly, who love science fiction and through it come to admire astrophysics and cosmology from afar — from a safe distance from the mathematical equations and heavy science stuff that for some of us have brain-breaking properties. Math and physics and chemistry obviously rule the world, but for some of us it’s just the theory that’s fascinating but not the daunting task of understanding the actual science behind it.
“Whether or not we subscribe to any particular religion or philosophy, it would be hard to deny that knowing our cosmic destiny must have some impact on how we think about our existence, or even how we live our lives. If we want to know whether what we do here ultimately matters, the first thing we ask is: how will it come out in the end? If we find the answer to that question, it leads immediately to the next: what does this mean for us now? Do we still have to take the trash out next Tuesday if the universe is going to die someday?”


In this book cosmology is combined with eschatology - the study of the end times. As we all know, every beginning implies that there will be an ending, and why would our universe be any different?
“About 13.8 billion years ago, the universe went from a state of unimaginable density, to an all-encompassing cosmic fireball, to a cooling, humming fluid of matter and energy, which laid down the seeds for the stars and galaxies we see around us today. Planets formed, galaxies collided, light filled the cosmos. A rocky planet orbiting an ordinary star near the edge of a spiral galaxy developed life, computers, political science, and spindly bipedal mammals who read physics books for fun.”

Katie Mack’s explanations of how the universe may end - Heat Death, Big Crunch, Big Rip, Vacuum Decay (a.k.a. Big Bubble of Quantum Death) or Bouncing Branes (all really awesome potential band names, btw) - are just lovely for the science fiction fan who, like me, is just a bit shaky on that “science” part. Even for an astrophysics newbie it will be quite accessible. She explains the complicated and quite strange concepts (drawing on cosmology, quantum mechanics, string theory, etc) really well, with no condescension, while keeping it fun. The kind of fun that seems to be made just for me - full of lighthearted humor (sometimes quite silly¹) and asides, and science fiction² and pop culture references³, and digressions, and a bit of deadpan humor⁴ and - of course - silly humorous footnotes⁵.
¹ “In everyday life in the modern universe, each of the fundamental forces of nature has a distinct role. Gravity holds us to the ground, electricity keeps our lights on, magnetism holds our shopping list to the fridge, the weak nuclear force makes sure our backyard nuclear reactor keeps glowing a nice steady blue, and the strong nuclear force prevents our bodies’ protons and neutrons from decomposing into their component parts.”

² “It’s unlikely that a whale and a bowl of petunias could suddenly pop into existence in completely empty space, but, in principle, if you wait long enough, it could happen.”

³ “Our WHOLE universe was in a hot dense state, then nearly 14 billion years ago expansion started…” Yes, the Barenaked Ladies got it right: the beginning of the theme song for the TV show The Big Bang Theory is actually a very good summary of the theory itself.”

“Quarks come in six different “flavors,” which have different masses and charges. The flavors are: up, down, top, bottom, charm, and strange. They were named in the 1960s.”
—————
⁵ The sheer abundance of footnotes reminded me of the one and only Sir Terry Pratchett. They are fun and distracting asides, and if that annoys you, you can choose to either stay away from this book or simply avoid reading those. Your loss.


I really like the informal and humorous tone of Mack’s explanations. They just work for me by making previously abstract things vividly concrete - like “awfully cute in a terrifying theoretical kind of way” primordial black holes or “ekpyrotic universe is eternal, cataclysmic, cosmic applause.” I hated physics in college, very much so, but I’ll never forget a professor who filled in once for my class explaining electron energy levels by describing the travails of an electron named “George”. I happily forgot all the physics from that class, but I remember overexcited anthropomorphic electron George to this day. It sticks in the memory better this way, and Katie Mack knows that, too, and she got it down to science (hehe):
“Anyway, in the core of a burned-out, collapsing star, there are so many atoms, pressed so tightly together, their electrons start to get antsy.”
———
“A white dwarf⁶ is a kind of star that isn’t burning at all. It has no fusion. It is a solid object held up entirely by the quantum mechanical principle that electrons just don’t like each other that much.”
⁶“They’re “dwarfs,” not “dwarves,” for reasons that are not entirely clear.”


One thing I realized from this book is that I do belong to those people who don’t worry that much about the end of the universe, unlike, obviously, Dr. Mack⁷:
⁷ “At some point, in a cosmic sense, it will not have mattered that we ever lived. The universe will, more likely than not, fade into a cold, dark, empty cosmos, and all that we’ve done will be utterly forgotten. Where does that leave us now?”

It’s too huge of the concept for me for it to feel close to my heart, and (unless it’s Vacuum Decay) is so far into the future that I would much rather focus on “double-checking your smoke alarm batteries and, I don’t know, lobbying to close down coal power plants or something.” Whether we the people ever matter in the global fate of the universe is not the question that will lose me any sleep at night, but it still provides for an excellent mind-expanding curiosity-provoking and very entertaining reading.
“I’ve never understood why people get so depressed about the end, the death of the Sun and all,” he continues. “I just like the serenity of it.”
“So it doesn’t bother you that we ultimately have no legacy in the universe?” I ask him.
“No, not at all,” he says. “I very much like our blip-ness… It’s always appealed to me,” he continues. “It’s the transience of these things. It’s the doing. It’s the process. It’s the journey. Who cares where you get to, right?”

Anyway, I got a big kick out of this book. It will join my go-to list of popular astrophysics along with anything by Neil deGrasse Tyson or the hilarious and informative Bad Astronomy and Death from the Skies!: These Are the Ways the World Will End... by Phil Plait.

5 stars⁸.
⁸ Those that someday will go supernova, of course.
——————
It’s all that weird “phantom” dark energy, anyway.
—————

For Cliffs Notes version of what this book is about, visit the interview with Dr. Mack in BBC Sky At Night Magazine: https://www.skyatnightmagazine.com/sp...
——————

And if you want to know whether The Large Hadron Collider has destroyed the universe yet, check here: http://www.hasthelargehadroncolliderd...

——————
Also posted on my blog.
Profile Image for Henk.
797 reviews
December 21, 2020
Thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking. Brings back memories of my childhood when I was amazed about astronomy (and dinosaurs) in the love the author shows for her subject
It’s not that it can’t be true, but that if it is, nothing makes sense, and we might as well give up on trying to understand the universe at all.

Why is the universe the way it is? seems to be the core question Katie Mack takes on in The End of Everything, besides the interest in how the universe will further develop and end.
The narrator really makes me enthusiastic about astrophysics and cosmology. Very understandable, but never condescending explanations of complex subjects are abound in this book.
The puzzling by astronomers to test theories based on in observations and how seemingly insurmountable problems are overcome is quite awe inspiring and made me wish I continued further in respect to this interest I had as a child. How much for instance can be inferred from cosmological expansion and a constant speed of light, in relation to Cepheid stars and certain supernovae having a fixed energy output, was really inspirational.

This book is like a lovely mega TED talk, only the foreshadowing to other chapters in a 240 page book was something I found a bit annoying at times.
How beautiful and elegantly tuned our universe is to facilitate life, and how influential the theories of Hubble, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, is really interesting. Equally interesting in this context is how Katie notes how in the time of Hubble astronomers were helped by women known as “computers”, who performed the analysis on star observations for Hubble at Harvard. In general the book offers a peek into the scientific community and how CERN and other institutes allocate time and attention to the fundamental questions relating to the universe.

Some very big ideas, like entropy being the source of time, and how we know next to nothing of dark energy, including the possibility of phantom dark energy and vacuum decay, potentially triggering a movement of the universe to another state of physics, are taken on by the author.
As said, I am an interested and enthusiastic geek in respect to this field, but even I at times felt concepts being so outlandish (like horizon energy in respect to a potential Heat Death) so some perseverance is required. But then this is a highly rewarding and engaging book, that brought me back in the curious and wondering state I still remember from my childhood.
Profile Image for Bryan.
Author 1 book66 followers
February 24, 2020
Katie Mack takes us on a delightfully dark journey, explaining in vivid detail five different ways the entire Universe could end.

I don’t tend to read a lot of popular astronomy books, because they either tell me things I already knew, or explain things in a way that’s clumsily stuck between plain English and scientific terminology but doing justice to neither. None of this is the case here though. I learned so many new things, plus was presented with insightful explanations of ideas I already understood but had previously felt had always been explained badly. Some of the analogies to convey complex concepts, like cyclic universes and the cosmic microwave background, are truly superb, and have permanently deepened and shifted my understanding.

Crystal clear explanations of advanced concepts, coverage of the very latest theories and ideas, and a sense of wry humour throughout all make this book something unique and special. No matter what your level of knowledge going in, you’ll come away from “The End of Everything” with a profound new understanding of cosmic doom, but also with a sense of empowerment that defies our inevitable destruction. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤.
743 reviews1,108 followers
September 3, 2020
Explosion Space GIF - Explosion Space Galaxy GIFs

“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.” ~Frank Herbert

People used to think that ours is a static universe, unchanging and eternal. That there was no "once upon a time" or a Big Bang. It just was and is and always will be.

We now know, however, that there was a beginning (and we also know that our universe is expanding). From the densest singularity, our universe grew into everything we know -- from the tiniest quarks and leptons to the vastest of galaxy clusters. There was a starting point to it all. 

So when and where will all of this end? Is it something we can answer or is it impossible to know? 

For most of us, we can only speculate using nothing but our imaginations. Astrophysicists, however, have mathematical tools to help them determine the likely fate of the universe. 

In The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking), theoretical astrophysicist Katie Mack tackles this question and tells us five ways the universe could conceivably end.  Will the universe expand forever, effectively ending everything through a Heat Death? Or will it eventually stop expanding, reverse course, and compress into a Big Crunch? Will everything end with the Big Rip or the Bounce, or in Vacuum Decay?

Ms. Mack thankfully doesn't use mathematics to explain each of these endings, because I would have been lost in the darkest universe if she had. Instead, she uses the concepts of quantum mechanics, general relativity, and quantum gravity theories like string theory and loop quantum gravity.

She uses language that is accessible to all, whether or not you have any previous knowledge of cosmology. She is witty at times and writes in an engaging way. I was not surprised to learn she is an assistant professor. No doubt her classes are exciting to take as her passion for her subject shines through on every page.

My one complaint is that the explanations become tedious at times. For those of us who are already familiar with things like entropy and the Large Hadron Collider, it's not enjoyable to read multiple descriptions.  Even for material that was new for me, I didn't require more than one explanation.

Multiple times I lost track of what the author was originally talking about because of how much time was spent describing one particular thing. This would be great in a classroom setting perhaps, but is annoying in a book. 

Still, The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking) is mostly an exciting read. I suppose it might be depressing to some to consider that everything we know and love will eventually come to an end, but it has the opposite effect on me. Knowing everything is finite, not just our individual lives or our Earth or our galaxy, but absolutely everything.... well, that just makes me appreciate the present even more. It also helps me remember that, in the grand scheme of things, the problems in my life are meaningless.

My favourite end-time scenario, which Ms. Mack mentions in the epilogue, is Roger Penrose's Conformal Cyclic Cosmology, which "postulates  universe cycling from Big Bang to Heat Death, over and over again, forever, with the tantalizing possibility that something— some imprint from a previous cycle - might make it through the transition". I suppose that I like it because it's easier to contemplate there always being something rather than an absolute void. The multiverse hypothesis is appealing to me for probably the same reason.

We can't say with certainty how the universe will end, but we do know it will not continue on the same forever. I recommend this to all who are curious about the distant future, though those who are already well-read in the subject might find it a bit too elementary. For everyone else, buckle up for one hell of a ride! Prepare to confront galaxies colliding, and black holes evaporating, and the fabric of space ripping in two!
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,298 reviews4,828 followers
November 12, 2022



Katie Mack

Katie Mack, a theoretical astrophysicist and cosmologist, is an assistant professor at North Carolina State University and a member of the Leadership in Public Science Cluster. Mack studies the universe from its origin to its demise and - in this book - speculates about the cosmos' ultimate end, which is inevitable.



Though the universe isn't likely to terminate for many trillions of years, there are scenarios in which the end is mere seconds away. The evolution and demise of the cosmos is a fascinating subject, and Mack makes it even better with her wit and sense of humor.

Mack starts by providing a brief description of the creation of the universe and how it got to where it is now. In short, there was the Big Bang; a brief period of Cosmic Inflation (10⁻³⁴ seconds); the Quark Era, when subatomic particles formed; a period of cooling, during which the subatomic particles condensed into electrons, protons, and the like; and finally the formation of stars, galaxies, black holes, etc. The universe was expanding the entire time, and in fact the expansion is accelerating. But what goes up must come down (so to speak) and the universe will inevitably come to an end.



In this book Mack explores five possibilities for the termination of the universe. These are the Big Crunch, Heat Death, the Big Rip, Vacuum Decay, and the Bounce. Mack explains the physics of each scenario, and for the real nitty-gritty, illustrated by sketches and graphs, you'll have to read the book.

❃ The Big Crunch

The Big Bang starts the universe's expansion, and from that point onward the gravity of all the material in the universe (gases, galaxies, stars, black holes, etc.) works against the expansion, trying to slow it down and pull everything back together again. This could lead to a contracting universe that ends in a Big Crunch.



Mack describes the climax of the Big Crunch as follows: The collected radiation from stars and high-energy particle jets, when suddenly condensed to even higher energies by the collapse, will be so intense it will begin to ignite the surface of stars long before the stars themselves collide. Nuclear explosions tear through stellar atmospheres, ripping apart the stars and filling space with hot plasma. No celestial entities could possibly exist un-incinerated......and ultimately nothing will survive.



We don't need to get in a lather, though, because it will be at least tens of billions of years before a Big Crunch reversal could occur.

❃ Heat Death

A second possibility is that the expansion of the universe will counteract gravity, and the cosmos will continue to inflate indefinitely. In this scenario, SPACE ITSELF - in the form of dark energy - overcomes gravity and fuels the growth of the universe. (Dark energy is defined as a theoretical repulsive force that counteracts gravity and causes the universe to expand at an accelerating rate.)



If the cosmos continues to enlarge, every galaxy will ultimately be completely alone. The stars already shining will burn out, exploding as supernovae or, more often, sloughing off outer layers....gradually cooling for billions or trillions of years. Black holes will evaporate (via Hawking radiation), fade, and disappear. Ordinary matter, which makes up stars and planets, will suffer a similar fate. Eventually nothing will be left. This occurrence is termed 'Heat Death', a physics term that refers to the fact that entropy - which is ALWAYS INCREASING - causes progressive disorder.



Don't be too concerned, because we probably have 10¹⁰⁰⁰ years or so before Heat Death would occur.

❃ Big Rip

Dark Energy might also finish off the universe by tearing it apart. Physicists have determined that certain values for Dark Energy, IF THEY EXIST, will cause the space WITHIN structures - within atoms, molecules, planets, stars, human bodies, etc. - to expand, and everything will come apart. Molecules will crack open and structures will be torn apart, atom from atom, from within.



Don't sweat too much because no BIG RIP could be less than a hundred billion years off.

❃ Vacuum Decay

Vacuum Decay has to do with the Higgs Field, the theoretical field of energy that permeates the universe and imparts mass to the fundamental particles. The physical state we live in is called our 'Higgs vacuum', and the laws of physics in the Higgs vacuum allow us to exist. If the Higgs vacuum should suddenly acquire some other, more stable value (which apparently is theoretically possible), there would be different laws of physics, and everything we know would be destroyed.



Mack observes that for us, this would be so sudden that we'd never see it coming. She writes, "In fact, it's entirely possible that, as we sit here now, drinking our tea, vacuum decay has already occurred....Maybe it is, cosmically speaking, right next door, quietly approaching with relativistic stealth, destined to catch us unawares, between breaths."



On the upside, if this should happen, it won't hurt.

❃ The Bounce

The Bounce has to do with the possibility of other dimensions. We think of the universe as having three dimensions, east-west, north-south, up-down, with the added dimension of time to form space-time. We call our 3-dimensional universe a 3-D 'brane.' Physicists speculate there may be other branes, in other dimensions, that we can't access.

The idea of the Bounce is that our universe formed when two branes - both filled with hot dense plasma - collided. This would be the Big Bang, and our universe would go on to evolve as described above. (We don't know what's going on in the other brane(s).)

In the Bounce scenario, the collisions are cyclic, That is, the branes collide again and again. Each time, the collision destroys our universe and simultaneously sets off a Big Bang. This is also called an ekpyrotic universe, "caught in an eternal cycle of fiery birth, cooling and rebirth."



No one knows which, if any, of the above scenarios is most correct, and Mack observes that we still have a lot to learn. Right now, though, the most popular paradigm for the cosmos is called the Concordance Model. In this picture, the universe has four basic components - radiation, regular matter, dark matter, and dark energy - plus gravity. If physicists have their facts correct about all these things (which is by no means certain), we're headed for a Heat Death.

More research is required, and Mack observes, 'If we want to learn anything about the future of the cosmos, we'd better address the giant, invisible ever-expanding killer elephant in the room: dark energy. In a dark energy dominated future, one in which the cosmos gets progressively emptier, colder, and darker until all structure decays, we reach the ultimate Heat Death. But this is predicated on dark energy being an unchanging cosmological constant. If dark energy somehow changes over time, the implications for the cosmos are drastically different.'

Since (at the current time) it's almost impossible to learn anything about dark energy, physicists have their work cut out for them.

In Mack's epilog, she addresses what's probably most important to people, which is that - when the universe terminates - our legacy as a species just ends. Mack says, "At some point, in a cosmic sense, it will not have mattered that we ever lived." This is sad. Professor Hiranya Peiris, an astrophysicist, admits, "I give talks where I mention that [termination] is probably the fate of the universe, and people have cried."


Hiranya Peiris

I think we all feel a little bit like crying when we contemplate the end of the universe.
Profile Image for Claudia.
942 reviews505 followers
May 1, 2020
Whenever I read about the vastness of the universe, I feel like I travel in time. We see distant galaxies billions of years in the past and I wonder how they look like now.

Cosmology is a difficult astronomy field – not that the others are much easier for a layman – but a very compelling one. Everything related to the origins or the end of the universe has a strong attraction to me.

That’s the main reason for choosing this book and the fact that I heard/read some of AstroKatie’s talks/tweets and I liked the way she talked.

Unfortunately, it was not the case with this book. Albeit very interesting, the writing almost ruined it for me. She digresses so much that you forgot what the main thread was. On addition, the author explains almost every concept used in phrases. Not that these are not interesting; it’s just too much and it scrambles the whole narrative.

If a reader chooses to read this book, I assume it has some physics/astronomy knowledge and doesn’t need everything explained; it’s supposed to be a popularizing science book, not a school one.

All these diversions would have worked much better as footnotes, not included in the narrative thread. As for the actual footnotes, which are meant to be witty, mostly they are not and do not add anything of value to the book; on the contrary, along with all the parenthesis, digressions, and explanations, they just divert the reader’s attention to the point that you begin to feel exasperated.

It’s one thing to tweet or give a five minutes talk and sound great and an utterly different thing to write a book. Maybe her next one will be better.

It’s not a book to avoid, but wait for your brains to be jumbled not only by the concepts, which was expected, but by the writing too, which was not.

>>> ARC received thanks to Penguin Press UK – Allen Lane via NetGalley <<<
Profile Image for Lou (nonfiction fiend).
2,771 reviews1,624 followers
August 5, 2020
Astrophysicist Katie Mack provides insight into the myriad ways in which the world could end, extinguishing life in the process, and despite the topic being a morbid and sobering one I found it absolutely riveting, extensively researched and accessible throughout; it really is a rarity that a science book can have you so enthralled by what you are reading. It explores five different ways the universe could end and the wondrous physics, big questions, and mind-blowing lessons underlying them with each being discussed thoroughly and all being deeply interesting concepts to read about, if not a little scary. The perfect antidote to the rather depressing subject matter is the liberal sprinkle of wit and humour interspersed amongst its pages. Most of all it illustrates the transient nature of life. A captivating, informative and profoundly thought-provoking book I am not likely to forget any time soon. Many thanks to Allen Lane for an ARC.
Profile Image for Paperclippe.
521 reviews101 followers
July 29, 2020
Do you, like me, love footnotes?

Then buckle up, friendo, because this is the book for you.

Katie Mack is world-renowned in some circles, which is to say, the best circles, for her Twitter account, where she is hilarious, sensitive, and able to explain the most complicated physics concepts not just so that even the layest of laypeople can understand them, but so that those same people can have a good laugh, too. The End of Everything is all that and more.

I've got a big, big soft spot for eschatology, so I started this book with high, high hopes, and not for a single moment did Mack let me down. She takes the reader on a tour of all the exciting, horrifying, and strangely beautiful ways that all this - and I do mean all this - might eventually come to an end. From the heat death of the universe to the big rip, Mack goes into stirring and vivid details about the ways in which we might eventually say goodbye to everything* - and maybe even say hello again.

*We, of course, won't be saying anything - we'll have been swallowed up by the sun long before then.**

**Assuming no bubbles come and swallow us up first.
Profile Image for Paul Weiss.
1,182 reviews124 followers
February 4, 2022
Higher dimensions of space should “come with a warning, scrawled in the margins of the ever-growing cosmic map: here be monsters”!

For those of us that are not Stockholm Syndrome slaves to the notions of organized religion and creationism, it seems accepted lore that the universe as we know it began with the Big Bang,

“a state of unimaginable density to an all-encompassing cosmic fireball to a simmering fluid of matter and energy”.

And, speaking of fluid, Katie Mack's book reminds us that it is obviously still a matter of very fluid discussion and ongoing development of competing notions as to whether the Big Bang was a one-off event; whether it’s a cyclic event that has happened before and will happen again; whether it’s an event that could happen again without any particular pattern or cycle; whether the universe we inhabit and can observe and measure stands alone; or whether it exists in the company of other universes embedded in an infinite meta-universe of possibilities. That plus the obvious question of how the development of the universe that we live in is driven and if, when and how it might come to an end forms the subject matter of THE END OF EVERYTHING (ASTROPHYSICALLY SPEAKING), an update to the current state of physicists’ expostulations on cosmology.

Given the depth and difficulty of the subject matter, it’s light-hearted and occasionally even irreverent and humorous but, make no mistake, the reading will take your full concentration and complete application of your proverbial “little gray cells”. I leave it to readers more informed than me to suggest that it is exhaustive as of the date of its publication.

THE END OF EVERYTHING is a veritable monster Texas grill fest of succulent meat to chew on and savour – the currently suggested five possible endings for this universe’s vale of tears - the Big Crunch, Heat Death, the Big Rip, the Bounce and the Vacuum Decay; the re-establishment of Einstein’s Cosmological Constant in the formulation of General Relativity (despite the fact that Einstein had once called it “his greatest mistake”); the robust nature of General Relativity and its almost uncanny refusal to be supplanted by a new Theory of Everything that seems to be needed so desperately; current thoughts on a multi-dimensional meta-universe in which our universe and others might be embedded; the possibilities for communication between universes via gravity waves; current efforts to defeat the almost complete lack of progress on the consolidation of general relativity and gravity with quantum mechanics and the other forces that govern the structure of the universe.

If you’re a patient, careful reader and the contemplation of how our universe began and might meet its ultimate close is of some interest to you, then THE END OF EVERYTHING will fall in your reading wheel house. Definitely recommended.

Paul Weiss
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,413 reviews302 followers
April 8, 2021
I liked this one a lot. Got me up to speed in current thinking in cosmology, even if a few of her "physics for amateurs" bits went by me. She writes well, and (mostly) does a good job in simplifying astrophysics for a general audience. Plus, she doesn't take herself too seriously. The footnotes! Mostly you can let them slide: the typeface used makes it really hard to find the damn asterisks. And a lot of them are semi-lame jokes.

She does get a bit carried away with the "End of Everything" stuff, I thought. But the book moves right along, and is commendably short. Recommended.

A good, detailed review. Start here: https://evilcyclist.wordpress.com/202...
"With all the science books out there, why choose Mack’s book? ... I have not read a more inviting scientist than Mack since Sagan. She has that manner of talking to an old friend. It encourages to reader to continue. She also has a sense of humor and probably the most enjoyable footnotes I have ever read. ...

Mack not only makes cosmology and physics understandable she makes it inviting. There is an enthusiasm for sharing knowledge that is missing in many other books on similar subjects. That enthusiasm is contagious and welcoming. She will give the reader an understanding of the big picture of cosmology as well as a few Douglas Adams references. Extremely well done."

Another positive review: https://blogs.sciencemag.org/books/20...
"All in all, The End of Everything serves as an outstanding, levelheaded guide to a horrific medley of ways the Universe might expire. The book is the perfect antidote to the malaise of mundane worries."
Profile Image for Hank.
766 reviews68 followers
May 13, 2021
6 stars, can I give 6 stars? I love physics book, I wanted to become a physicist but didn't quite have enough brain power, so I console myself with brilliant physicists dumbing it down for me.

Katie Mack is not only a brilliant physicist, she is also brilliant at describing some of the most complicated pieces of our world in a mostly easy to understand way. I loved the new angles she presents on dark matter, the expansion of the universe, the big bang, etc. She approaches all of them with excitement, humour and an incredible depth of understanding. She also name drops some of my favorite books like Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy, Pushing Ice, Cat's Cradle and one other I can't quite remember. I am now a huge fan and will read anything else she manages to write.

Everyone should read this!
Profile Image for foteini_dl.
410 reviews116 followers
April 17, 2021
*βάζει το It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)*

Θεωρητικά, το να κάτσεις να διαβάσεις ένα βιβλίο π��υ μιλάει για το τέλος του σύμπαντος, εν μέσω πανδημίας, δεν είναι και ο ορισμός του καλού τάιμινγκ. Δηλαδή εδώ τη βγάζουμε δεν τη βγάζουμε τη χρονιά, και θα κάτσω να διαβάσω τι θα γίνει σε μερικά δισεκατομμύρια χρόνια;

Πρακτικά, για μένα, είναι το καλύτερο τάιμινγκ. Γιατί αν δεν το διαβάσεις τώρα, τότε πότε; Άσε που μιλάει για το τέλος με πολύ ζωντανό και διασκεδαστικό τρόπο, παραθέτοντας τα επικρατέστερα (και w i l d) σενάρια. Η Katie Mack, μια θεωρητική αστροφυσικός, αγαπάει και διασκεδάζει το αντικείμενό της και αυτό βγαίνει προς τα έξω. Και μιλάει πολύ πετυχημένα για εξαιρετικά πολύπλοκα κόνσεπτ χωρίς να δεις ούτε μια μαθηματική εξίσωση. Ε, αυτό είναι κάτι που δεν το καταφέρνει ο καθένας.

Δεν ξέρω αν αυτό το βιβλίο είναι για όλους (οκ, κανένα βιβλίο δεν είναι για όλους). Εμένα όμως μου έκανε κλικ. Με έκανε να συνειδητοποιήσω για άλλη μια φορά τη θέση μου (μας) στο σύμπαν και ότι όποιο νόημα ψάχνω (ψάχνουμε), βρίσκεται σε εμάς και όχι στα αστέρια. Χωρίς να σημαίνει ότι δεν πρέπει να σταματήσουμε να τα ψάχνουμε.
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books676 followers
July 5, 2021
This was fascinating, but it did miss one important possible way for the cosmos to end: the explosion of my brain trying to picture all of this.

She goes through the current models for what our universe might be, why it acts the way it does, the stumbling blocks they're trying to figure out, and what each model would look like if they were true. It's in layman's terms, short, sweet and funny even about absolute destruction.

I had to listen to some parts multiple times all the same because trying to understand phantom particles and dark energy and the rest makes me cognitively sea sick. Definitely recommended.
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,563 reviews1,934 followers
August 19, 2020
Wow it's been a long time since I've done any Science Nonfiction reading, but this was a great book to dive back into it. I should preface this review by noting that, believe it or not, I was a science undergrad and worked in a lab that shot rays at particles, so I am not a total layman when it comes to Physics. But all that was a VERY long time ago, and almost everything Mack describes here goes well beyond anything I studied. Anyone who isn't a Cosmologist is going to have a whole lot to learn about and digest here, and it isn't exactly the kind of field where everything is all pretty simple once you get into the nitty gritty. The opposite, actually. There is so much we don't know and there is so much that doesn't make sense in what we do know that you have to be willing to approach a book like this with some mental flexibility. It is going to get weird and sometimes it may make your brain hurt a little bit and that's okay.

Mack is great at guiding you through all of this because she knows you are just a regular person. She makes jokes and provides you with plenty of metaphors and knows when to say "it's a lot of math that would take me literally years to explain so just go with it." (I listened to the audiobook, and the reader was perfectly fine but she did not seem to know when Mack was making jokes and read them with the same general tone as everything else, which did take away a little bit of my enjoyment.)

Why, you may ask, should I read a book about the end of the universe when everything sucks so much right now? A good question. I can't say that everyone will have this experience, but I felt like some of the scientists Mack talks to at the end of the book. There's something about looking at this grand scale, about really understanding that everything is finite, that somehow lets you both focus on what's important and get some distance from the granular parts of life. It's all about perspective shifts, and those will probably make some readers very uncomfortable, and they definitely take some mental gymnastics, but I've always found them to help me feel better in a counterintuitive way. If you are worried about these potential ends, I will spoil a little bit to say that most of them are not possible for billions of years. And while there is one that could happen before that, it's a pretty good way to go all things considered, and I may well just look at something beautiful and think "well vacuum decay could destroy us all at any moment so let's appreciate this."

The Physics here is pretty intense but not in a math way, more of a concepts that go way beyond where our brains normally go kind of way, but I think Mack makes it about as accessible as it's possible to be. You shouldn't need a science background, but you will need a willingness to be patient with the limits of your own mind. One theory had me a little like "yeah I am just gonna accept that I don't fully get this giant brain thing." Also I listened on audio, which required a LOT of concentration and print is probably going to be easier for most.
Profile Image for La Crosse County Library.
546 reviews120 followers
September 13, 2022
The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking) is an engaging and witty book, and dare I say, fun!

Despite the grim subject matter discussed, namely the diverse ways physicists think the universe could end, astrophysicist Katie Mack's enthusiasm for the science involved is contagious. I can tell that she loves the line of work she is in, even when tackling the big existential questions that boil down to, “How and why are we here, and where are we going?”



Optimism and drive are required for those who study the true end times, and besides, people are naturally curious. It is probably the reason that humanity has gotten anywhere, honestly, especially to a point where we can contemplate these questions and figure out how to answer them.



As I write this, the main story in science news has been the first photo taken of the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy, Sag A*. Scientists had inferred from observations of the movements of stars previously that there must be something there, something massive and with the powerful gravitation to match. It seems to be the latest confirmation of the sturdiness of Einstein's theory of general relativity.



I thought of how far scientists have come in understanding the universe, thinking of the Sag A* photo, and the wonder and awe that comes with such a discovery. The same wonder and awe that The End of Everything exudes and that it inevitably shares with its readers, who may be scientists themselves or not.

The End of Everything is written with accessibility for a larger general readership who may not be familiar with the overwhelming intricacies involved in the different realms of physics, where there are people who specialize in everything from string theory to quantum mechanics. (I consider myself fairly intelligent, but there are some aspects of physics that are still difficult to comprehend. Admittedly, my brain still trips over the fact that the universe could have started out as a small, infinitely dense singularity.)

Thankfully, Mack covers the basics first before gradually throwing in the complications of observed data not necessarily fitting nicely within established theories of understanding the universe in later chapters. It was fascinating!

I know there’s still more progress to be made, and that scientists have various known unknowns and unknown unknowns, but I’m impressed by what we know so far about the universe. I mean, we recently took a photo of a black hole that’s very, very far away. Something that by nature can’t really be seen unless you’re observing in the infrared or radio-wave portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. (It’s crazy how limited we humans are in only being able to see visible light, when there’s so many other ways to observe the cosmos.)



There are a few mainstream scenarios posited for the end of the universe. One involves the universe expanding far into the future, until there is no usable energy left, and stars go dark (Heat Death). The other involves the universe expanding until it stops, rebounds, and collapses back on itself, similar to a reverse Big Bang. (Eloquently termed the “Big Crunch.”) And yet another possibility—the one that honestly frightened me the most—was what the author termed the “Big Rip.”



Dark energy, probably responsible for why the universe is continuing to expand—probably because it’s largely theoretical and hasn’t been observed directly—overcomes the other forces holding matter and the fabric of spacetime together and violently tears everything apart. (Smarter people than me have done the math and concluded that there’s more than the regular matter that makes up us and rocks and trees in the universe and that there’s not enough of it to hold everything together as has been observed.)

You may be asking, “Cora, how is all that ‘fun’ to read about?”

I am a curious person, Katie Mack is an incredibly good science communicator, and any of these end-time scenarios are billions upon billions of years in the future. So not an immediate worry.



Also, it is weirdly comforting that the universe is as mortal as we are, even if it will outlast our short lifetimes.



Less mainstream theories were also discussed, but they are not very well-developed yet, considered still on the edge of acceptable physics discussions. They range from a theory of a cyclic universe—Big Bang then Big Crunch, then repeat over and over forever—to another universe bumping into our space and setting off such a high-energy event potentially able to create a new universe. Then there’s the whole multiverse thing, which was not discussed in detail, but seems to be the vogue in major superhero franchises as of late.



There were even weirder fringe theories, but we’d be here a while.

My point here is that this book is a concise, well-written treatise on the wonders of the universe, even if it does have to end sometime. All good things, am I right?

Find this book and other titles within our catalog.
Profile Image for David.
537 reviews122 followers
November 24, 2020
I have a new favorite astrophysics author, and her name is Katie Mack - @AstroKatieMack. This book is written for laymen, but does not shy away from advanced topics. There is some very light humor sprinkled in the pages. The complexity of topics ramps up very smoothly as the book progresses. Yet Katie easily held my attention by not over-explaining with too much depth, yet always providing that perfect analogy that are the trademarks of cosmologists' presentations.

(Just finished 2nd reading - needed to take detailed notes. Message me if you want them. I might have been better off buying my own copy of this book and marking it up! 20 pages of notes)

After a couple chapters of very well focused introductory science, the five possible 'endings' of our universe are discussed with 100% scientific focus. Even the next-to-last Future chapter remains scientifically philosophical as other cosmologists' thoughts are explored, and the possible experiments are discussed to help prove/disprove them.

We are not to worry that these high-energy particle accelerators could accidentally make a black hole that consumes the earth, or trip the universe into an early vacuum decay. Our local cosmos has MUCH higher energy particle collisions happening regularly that we can never hope to achieve here on earth. e.g. https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap060814.html And the universe has not been destroyed.

Perhaps we're doing a calculation where the final number doesn't matter, but the caclulation does. "The number doesn't matter," she [Hiranya Peiris] agrees, "but the exercise of thinking through the different options on the table, I thin, is good." And the implications of this thought experiment might ultimately pay off.

Katie has the credentials: She received her BS from Cal Tech, and PhD from Princeton. Her published papers include:
- Investigating the Hubble Constant Tension--Two Numbers in the Standard Cosmological Model
- Bounds on extra dimensions from micro black holes in the context of the metastable Higgs vacuum
- Dark Matter Annihilation in the Circumgalactic Medium at High Redshifts
- Dark Matter Annihilation in the First Galaxy Halos
See her North Carolina State University page for more: https://physics.sciences.ncsu.edu/peo...

This is a well organized and concise book:
1) Intro discussing mankind's quest to envision 'the end'
2) Succinct scientific knowledge taking us from the Big Bang to Now
----- The Five Possible Endings -----
3) Big Crunch (Expansion slows; stops; reverses)
4) Heat Death (Accelerated expansion forever maximizes entropy as the 'universe cup of coffee' all becomes the exact same 'room temperature' - actually quite cold)
5) Big Rip (What if the cosmological constant is non-constant? Phantom dark energy even rips apart Black Holes)
6) Vacuum Decay (scariest, since this quantum tunneling into a lower vacuum state could happen any time)
7) Bounce (does our brane bounce off another parallel brane)
-----
8) Future
9) Epilogue

Some "Best" moments for me...
p82: Nice explanation of the 13.8 billion year old Universe, while having a radius of 45 billion light years. (The light reaching us from the 13.8 distance has now expanded to the 45 distance).

p90: 2nd law of thermo

p94: Black Hole evaporation

p100: At the de Sitter Equilibrium state, quantum fluctuations could recreate the conditions of today, an infinite number of times. The Gay Science by Nietzsche

p101: Is this "You", by configuration of atoms?? Star Trek teleporter. Is that you?

p102: Boltzmann Brain interesting...

p103 -> end of book p213 was non-stop fun for my brain to read. Too many great details to continue listing and keeping track. Maybe I'll update this review with another concentrated reading of this book.

Possible wish for this book - there was mention of "Radio Astronomy" early in the book, but the electromagnetic spectrum was not really explained. I'm fine with that. But the level-1 entry readability of this book felt aimed at an audience that might need to have a paragraph or two quickly remind the reader how Radio Astronomy works.

I can't wait to read more from Katie Mack. She even has a beautiful poem on her website I'll share here:
http://www.astrokatie.com/


Disorientation

by Katie Mack

I want to make you dizzy.

I want to make you look up into the sky and comprehend, maybe for the first time, the darkness that lies beyond the evanescent wisp of the atmosphere, the endless depths of the cosmos, a desolation by degrees.

I want the Earth to turn beneath you and knock your balance off, carry you eastward at a thousand miles an hour, into the light, and the dark, and the light again. I want you to watch the Earth rising you up to meet the rays of the morning sun.

I want the sky to stop you dead in your tracks on your walk home tonight, because you happened to glance up and among all the shining pinpricks you recognized one as of the light of an alien world.

I want you to taste the iron in your blood and see its likeness in the rust-red sands on the long dry dunes of Mars, born of the same nebular dust that coalesced random flotsam of stellar debris into rocks, oceans, your own beating heart.

I want to reach into your consciousness and cast it outward, beyond the light of other suns, to expand it like the universe, not encroaching on some envelope of emptiness, but growing larger, unfolding inside itself.

I want you to see your world from four billion miles away, a tiny glint of blue in the sharp white light of an ordinary star in the darkness. I want you to try to make out the boundaries of your nation from that vantage point, and fail.

I want you to feel it, in your bones, in your breath, when two black holes colliding a billion light years away sends a tremor through spacetime that makes every cell in your body stretch, and strain.

I want to make you nurse nostalgia for the stars long dead, the ones that fused your carbon nuclei and the ones whose last thermonuclear death throes outshined the entire galaxy to send a single photon into your eye.

I want you to live forward but see backward, farther and deeper into the past, because in a relativistic universe you don’t have any other choice. I want the stale billion-year-old starlight of a distant galaxy to be your reward.

I want to utterly disorient you and let you navigate back by the stars. I want you to lose yourself, and find it again, not just here, but everywhere, in everything.

I want you to believe that the universe is a vast, random, uncaring place, in which our species, our world, has absolutely no significance. And I want you to believe that the only response is to make our own beauty and meaning and to share it while we can.

I want to make you wonder what is out there. What dreams may come in waves of radiation across the breadth of an endless expanse. What we may know, given time, and what splendors might never, ever reach us.

I want to make it mean something to you. That you are in the cosmos. That you are of the cosmos. That you are born from stardust and to stardust you will return. That you are a way for the universe to be in awe of itself.
Profile Image for Ints.
721 reviews73 followers
January 8, 2022
Īss un informatīvs ieskats mūsu visuma bojāejas scenārijos. Tie ir viens par otru fantastiskāki un tai pat laikā reāli, vismaz mūsdienu kosmoloģijas izpratnes līmenī. Iespēju ir daudz no siltuma nāves līdz vakuuma deģenerācijai (mūsu vakuums nemaz nav īstais vakuums un pagaidiet tik brīdi, kad higgsa lauks atklās, ka īstajam vakuumam ir vēl zemāks enerģijas līmenis).

Profile Image for Dax.
226 reviews99 followers
November 12, 2021
Mack does a wonderful job of dumbing things down for us. This relatively short book is packed full of info that is wholly new to me. While most of the book focuses on the future of our universe, Mack does give us a short intro into the birth and history of the universe that served as a nice refresher course for those of us who haven't discussed this topic since high school. Quite a bit will go over your head, but you won't feel as though you are drowning in quantum physics talk. High three stars. If I had to nitpick, I would say I wish Mack didn't reach for a corny laugh every paragraph. I get it, astrophysics can be dry, but she overdoes it quite a bit with the nerd humor.
Profile Image for Sebastian.
Author 8 books26 followers
August 24, 2020
It would do a disservice to the book to say I didn’t learn anything new here, but the fact is, I didn’t - aside from a few minor details and a promise that the jarringly faulty popular explanation for black hole evaporation actually makes sense once you do the full math. However, this was to be expected. As a forty-plus year old geek who reads a lot I was bound to encounter all of this stuff, from the big crunch, through the big rip, right across some bouncy universes straight down to vacuum decay in a number of other books (one of my favorites among those is an offbeat 1985 book called The Structured Vacuum: Thinking About Nothing freely available online as a smudgy scan).

All that aside, this is a beautiful book that will teach any non-physicist a lot about the evolution of the cosmos. With clear and understandable language and just the right amount of metaphors thrown in to actually clarify things without muddying up the water, I’d say Mack has hit exactly the right balance between unloading a wealth of esoteric information and “dumbing” it down for a popular science book.

It is also refreshing to read popular science from an author of (more-or-less) my age, who probably grew up reading the previous generation that we are all well familiar with and that still seems to dominate the bookshelves (all that Sagan and Hawking and Penrose and Greene and whathaveyou), and who intersperses their writing with references that ring close to heart (e.g. Pushing Ice, Ancillary Justice, The Fifth Season…) I’m guessing that, in addition to the fact that Mack is an avid popularizer of science and practiced communicator through her various online outlets, she was able to reap the best practices of this old school of sci-pop authors and drop their worst tendencies, producing a beautiful, clear book that explains and enlightens on a really depressing but nevertheless incredibly intriguing topic.
Profile Image for Scotchneat.
611 reviews9 followers
August 31, 2020
Katie Mack is like your BFF who happens to be a kickass cosmologist/theoretical physicist with cool physicist friends.

In this book, Mack walks the reader through the latest thinking about the death of the universe. As a bonus, she also gives a very readable summary of the Big Bang, and a bit about quanta, dark energy, dark matter, how we measure distance and time on a cosmic scale, string theory, constants, black holes, and what cosmologists are on the lookout for now.

The options (for the end) are the Big Crunch, Heat Death, the Big Rip, Vacuum Decay, or a Bounce. In all cases, things don't end well, but I promise you the learning journey will be informative.

I have much respect for scientists/mathematicians who are able to communicate large, complicated concepts in ways that are accessible, retaining that sense of wonder that (I'm sure) got them into their specialty in the first place. Katie Mack is the next gen of such a communicator - well worth a read.
Profile Image for Kristina.
1,202 reviews463 followers
June 22, 2021
If you’re at all interested in learning how the universe will end, and the topic won’t make you squeamish or depressed, may I point you to Katie Mack’s The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking)? Mack is a theoretical astrophysicist who is quite taken with the question of: how will it all end? After giving readers an introduction to her credentials and explaining her interest in this apocalyptic question, Mack supplies readers with a basic overview of cosmology, the study of the universe. Researching the end of the universe also has a specific category: cosmic eschatology, a somewhat neglected field.

After introducing us to our doom, Mackie has a refresher course on the Big Bang. I found this probably one of the most interesting (and intellectually accessible) chapters for me. After bringing us up to date on the universe, Mackie dives into detail about the different ways the universe will end: the Big Crunch, Heat Death, the Big Rip, Vacuum Decay and Bounce. The Big Crunch is essentially the idea that the expansion of the universe will eventually stop and reverse course until all the matter in the universe collides together, gets really hot and burns up until nothing is left. Heat Death is basically the lack of heat, but not heat as in warmth. Mackie means:
The name “Heat Death” might sound like a misnomer for a state of the cosmos that is colder and darker than anything else in the history of creation. But in this case, the term “heat” is a technical physics term, not meaning “warmth,” but rather “disordered motion of particles or energy.” And it’s not the death of heat, but a death by heat. It’s the disorder in particular that kills us…entropy (90).
If the universe is governed by dark energy in the form of a cosmological constant, then the future holds darkness, isolation, emptiness and decay. As you can see, this chapter introduces readers to the cosmological constant and dark energy, a real pain in the ass for basically all universe/space-related scientists: “dark energy ruins everything” (85).

At some point in all this, my brain begins to falter at grasping these concepts because to really understand a lot of this, you need to be able to do the math. And I can’t do the math. As Mackie says on page 95 when trying to explain something about black holes and the Second Law of Thermodynamics: “I can’t really get into it without a massive amount of math and a level of physics exposition that would probably require weekly lectures for two or three semesters…but I wanted to assure you that despite the inadequacy of the popular analogy the full calculation doesmake sense if you do it all rigorously, using general relativity and quantum field theory.” Wow. Well, okay, I’ll take your word for it because my brain is not equipped to do physics at this level. And the chapters about the Big Rip and Vacuum Decay are fuzzy for me because by this point, my brain is tired. I don’t even remember how the Bounce is going to kill us all (although, by this time we’re probably dead anyway because of the sun expanding in a red giant and all that drama). Although this book has been (supposedly) written for the layperson to understand, it’s for a layperson who is somewhat acquainted with physics and remembers the particulars of electrons and gang. Says Mackie under a subheading called “A Quantum Heap” in the Big Rip chapter:
“The first thing you need to know is that most of the subatomic particles you know and love—electrons, protons, neutrons, neutrinos, quarks—are fermions, which, in this context, means they are fiercely independent, in a particle physics kind of way. Specifically, they obey the Pauli exclusion principle, which says that they won’t abide being in the same place and the same energy state at the same time (121).
Subatomic particles I know and love? I think she’s confused me with Sheldon Cooper, the theoretical physicist of The Big Bang Theory. Most of my familiarity with these subatomic particles comes from watching reruns of TBBT, a show I used to love until it got unbearable to watch. But when reading this book, I would come across familiar Sheldon terminology and exclaim, “ah ha! That’s what Sheldon was talking about!” Of course, I still have only the fuzziest idea of what Mackie (and Sheldon) are so excited about, but at least I’m trying.

The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking) is definitely worth putting in the brain power to read. If you’ve had some high school or college level physics, or just like to dabble in physics and the related math for fun, then you’ll love this book. As long as you don’t get too upset by the idea that eventually, no matter how, the universe will end and any trace of humanity will be gone. I personally can’t get too bothered by that because I will be gone long before any of these things happen (well, except maybe for vacuum decay; apparently a quantum bubble of death can open up at any time and if you happen to be near it, you’ll go first. Don’t worry, it’ll be nearly instantaneous and painless). If your talents are not in the mathematical and physics field, you may want to read the chapters slowly, take the time to (maybe) comprehend some of what you’ve read before moving on. I was okay (for the most part) until the Big Rip. I think that’s a good description of what happened in my skull.


Profile Image for Steve.
493 reviews21 followers
May 26, 2020
Great science writing

I enjoyed this book. Katie Mack has a relaxed, casual writing style and the book felt more like a discussion over a cup of coffee. She shows a good sense of humor and the footnotes are definitely worth reading. Despite the complexity of the subject matter, Mack weaves a compelling tale about the future of the universe. Not a lot of jargon is used and the writing style is conversational. Mack weaves herself into the story making the book a type of journey. Normally, I don’t like when scientists wax philosophical, but in this book, this was done splendidly. I recommend this book for anyone interested in science.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley for review purposes.
Profile Image for Emily .
711 reviews72 followers
March 2, 2021
Hey, I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway - woooo! So... I did like this book but felt that parts of it were slow. I felt like the first section that was dealing with how the universe got to where it is now dragged on too long though. I like that topic was presented in an understandable way and I find it really interesting to think about what the end of everything might look like. Definitely recommend to anyone that enjoy books about the universe and/or science books.
Profile Image for Raed.
223 reviews52 followers
May 12, 2022
The Ending as i see it

One night a demon whispered in my ear in my loneliest loneliness and said : "Your Milky Way will again coalesce, and your sun will again appear in a corner of the galaxy. The Earth and the other planets will reappear, bathed by the same sunlight. On Earth, the first life will again form in the primitive sea on a day identical to the one four billion years ago. The long process of evolution will
lead to multicellular organisms. The first amphibians will climb onto land. Reptiles will spread over the whole planet, and then an asteroid will kill off the dinosaurs. An undistinguished monkey will climb down from the trees, create civilizations, states, religions, science … and your homeland will, like other nations, be reborn. Ancient emperors will again reign over all-under-heaven, and war and rebellions will follow. The poets will again recite their famous lines, and the scientists will struggle over the same puzzles. and just as before, you will be reborn on the same second of the same minute of the same hour of the same day. Everything will … happen again.”

“Happen … again,” i was utterly amazed by this simple but incredible idea ...

Brother of Chaos If this thought gained possession of you, it would change you as you are or perhaps crush you.

I found this book enjoyable.
Profile Image for Federica Rampi.
463 reviews114 followers
December 20, 2021
“And as long as we are thinking creatures, we will never stop asking: “What comes next?”


There has been endless conjectures about how the world will end (a nuclear war, swamped by the sun, a collision with an asteroid) but what about the end of the whole universe?


Katie Mack, astrophysics and science writer, in The End of Everything faces this intriguing question and takes readers through five different future scenarios (Big Crunch, Heat Death, Big Rip, Vacuum,Decay,Bounce)
She does this on the basis of everything we know about physics, and above all , everything we don't know.

One of the most mind-blowing elements of the book is that there may be things beyond the visible horizon: the universe is still expanding, we will never be able to see past 13.8 billion light years.
This means there may be a lot more out there that we will never know about.

The subject might be depressing ,but Mack sells it brilliantly.
Her explanations of complex physical (including depictions processes numerous footnotes, graphs) are fluent and it’s clear she adores the field she works in.
Mack has done a fantastic job of explaining some very complex science in a way that is understandable to a non-cosmologist
Mack’s humour and the way she talks directly to the reader, makes the book a fascinating and engaging experience.

A lot of material to think about!
Profile Image for Sharon Reamer.
Author 21 books12 followers
August 24, 2020
Rating: 2.499999999

I am a total cosmology/theory of everything/quantum gravity fangirl.

And there were a lot of things to like about this journey through all the theories about how the universe will possibly end, most of which I'd read about in other books and articles.

The cutesy, pop-cultureish writing did annoy me at times even though it should appeal to younger readers (maybe, or those who follow her on Twitter) or those needing to be lightened up a little while reading gloomy prophecies of universal doom. Maybe if there had been quotes from authors (at the beginning of each chapter, there was one) that I *actually* liked, it might have made me less grumpy. At least there weren't any GOT quotes. If there'd been even one from Zelazny or Chalker, perhaps I would have been happier (or one from authors of SF novels from my coming-of-age generation).

At the end, I was not blown away at all but was left wondering, what was the point? The book touches on areas of research that are active, and have been active for a long time. As stated before, I didn't really learn anything new and felt that relevance was missing. There wasn't any knock-down assertiveness about string theory versus loop quantum gravity. That would have been interesting and perhaps would have contributed to the ongoing discussion about the two competing hypotheses and how they would affect any universal end-time scenarios.

The science explanations did seem sound (although a very 'me'-centered narrative, i.e., I do math! Wow! Wish I could explain things better but I'd need a whole semester or two to do it and you'd all have to learn differential geometry, 'kay?) but a mite superficial. At least Sean Carroll (mentioned in the book) doesn't worry about leaving readers behind even though his books are sometimes hard to get through.

The glaring omission was a recommended reading list or a list of references (only a bare few were included in the copious footnotes). This knocked the book rating down quite a lot.

Library read.

Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,003 followers
February 6, 2021
The End of Everything is about all the potential ways the universe can end. Katie Mack describes the various scenarios and why they're likely or unlikely, the evidence for them, and what looking into these possibilities can teach us about the universe, even if they all turn out to be wrong. She has a fairly breezy style, but some of the actual physics is pretty hard to understand, so it's to her credit that it feels comparatively light while also making what she describes clear enough.

Unfortunately, for me, physics is one of those topics that I don't dislike because it's hard -- though I do find it to be difficult -- as because it leaves me very much wondering what the point of everything is. Even biology will leave me feeling that way once I dig too deep, and this isn't a dig at Mack at all... but it definitely made it harder for me to enjoy this book, because it does deal with those really big topics, and where some people can take joy in all the unknowns and the deep weirdness that we manage to exist at all, it really gets under my skin and makes me feel very small and pointless. I can't really recommend that as an experience, but if entropy doesn't get you down and a cold empty universe doesn't bother you, then this will be much more to your taste!
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Author 20 books3,912 followers
June 9, 2021
One of the delights of having a not-excellent memory is that I can read seemingly endless books about physics/astronomy and although most of these books are forced, by the nature of their ambitions, to go over familiar territory (relativity, the big bang, quantum theory, etc), I've always more or less forgotten the nitty-gritty details every time I pick one up, and so I'm always amazed by how strange our universe is.

Mack's book is no exception--we get the basic primer on this stuff once again. Two things, however, set it apart. First, she has a direct, lively writing style that sets the book above some of its peers. Second, she manages to keep her focus on the goal--the discussion of the possible ends of the universe--even when she'd reviewing for dummies like me. The fact that the book is also relatively short also doesn't hurt. PhD students in the field (and maybe some undergrads?) probably won't find anything new or surprising here, but I--a writer of epic fantasy--found it a delightful tour through the far past, the distant future, and the baffling strangeness of the cosmos.
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