Neil deGrasse Tyson cut to the chase and explained how the Earth and the universe will end during an interview with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show Tuesday, March 2nd.
The topics are something Tyson explores in his new book, Cosmic Queries: StarTalk’s Guide to Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We’re Going. The scientist quickly ran through the well-known process by which the Earth will cease to exist — sun expands, oceans boil, atmosphere evaporates into space, Earth becomes charred ember that descends into center of the sun, yadda yadda yadda — to get to the stuff that really keeps him up at night: “The Big Rip,” which will end the universe as we know it.
“The Big Rip,” Tyson explained, is tied to the accelerating expansion of the universe, which will eventually “outstrip all gravitational forces currently holding things together.”
He continued: “It will eventually overcome molecular bonds that are holding your flesh together… The accelerating forces will continue to gain strength as we expand, because it’s a property of a vacuum, and the bigger the universe is the more vacuum we have. And this will continue, rip your molecules apart, then it’ll rip your atoms apart! And then there’s a part where it rips — I shouldn’t say ‘rip, it ‘separates’ them — then the very fabric of space and time itself will fall victim to this expansion. And we call that ‘The Big Rip.’”
In another part of the interview, Tyson spoke about the rise in missions to Mars from space programs around the world and spoke about NASA’s new rover, Perseverance, which just landed on the planet.