cover image The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking)

The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking)

Katie Mack. Scribner, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-1-9821-0354-5

Mack, a theoretical astrophysicist who has written for Scientific American and Cosmos, debuts with a fascinating tour of the cosmic forces—quantum vacuums, dark matter, dark energy, entropy, and gravitation among them—that may conspire to end the universe. Excelling at providing just enough scientific detail, Mack sets the scene with an exceptionally lucid history of the universe from the big bang to the present. As to how the end might occur, Mack reveals a surprising number of competing theories, including that the mysterious dark energy will rip the cosmos apart, or, conversely, that the universe will collapse in on itself. In the currently most favored theory, it will be the victim of entropy, a long, cold demise paradoxically named “heat death,” and in another scenario, which could happen at any moment, the all-pervading Higgs energy field will become unstable. (In this eventuality, Mack is careful to assure readers, the process will be painless and instantaneous.) In outlining the reasoning behind each theory, she also acknowledges opposing arguments and provides context for how astrophysicists found the supporting data. Despite the seemingly frightening topic, Mack’s endlessly entertaining survey is infused with a palpable love of her subject, and will transmit to readers the same joy she finds in exploring the wide and fascinating universe. Agent: Mollie Glick, CAA. (Aug.)