If the spectacular images from the NASA James Webb Space Telescope have you hankering to learn more about what’s Out There—or at least to see more pretty pictures of it—The Short Story of the Universe arrives just in time to sate your craving.
Like all of the books in the Short Story of… series, Gemma Lavender’s The Short Story of the Universe (Amazon, Bookshop) is organized into four cross-referenced sections. First is Structure, which begins with the Universe and ends with subatomic particles. Next is History and Future. It begins “Before the Beginning” (the “beginning” being the Big Bang, T=0, 13.8 billion years ago) and ends with “The Fate of the Universe” at T > 10100 years.
The shape of that future depends on how dark energy behaves. If dark energy weakens over time, “it may cause gravity to lead the Universe slowly to contract back on itself in a Big Crunch.” Alternatively, if dark energy strengthens or even stays the same over time, the Universe will just keep on expanding forever until either all matter entropically decays into radiation or the fabric of space-time gets torn in a Big Rip. We don’t know which path dark energy will take because we don’t yet know what dark energy is.