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11 ways the world (as we know it) could end

By: Laura Moss on Feb. 16, 2011, 10:20 a.m.
hands ripping a piece of paper

Photo: Getty Images

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The Big Rip

According to Big Rip theory, our bodies, the planet and the entire universe will quite literally be torn apart. The theory’s chief proponent, Robert Caldwell of Dartmouth College, explains that the universe is expanding — driven by dark energy — and galaxies are moving farther and farther away from us. The rate of the universe’s expansion is also constantly accelerating like a vehicle that increases its speed by 10 mph for every mile it travels, and at some point, the acceleration becomes so fast that all objects are ripped apart.

Caldwell and his colleagues say they see no way to avoid the Big Rip if this acceleration continues; however there is a bright side: This apocalyptic occurrence won’t become noticeable for another 20 billion years, and scientists say that by then other events will have already destroyed our solar system.