7 Crazy Theories Scientists Have About the Universe
We've come a long way since Galileo and flat-Earth evangelists (well, sort of), but we're still light-years away from understanding what in the actual hell is happening throughout the great beyond. Sure, the Hubble Space Telescope and Neil deGrasse Tyson have done wonders to help us wrap our heads around some of the wildest discoveries out there, but that's all child's play when you pause to consider these exceptionally crazy theories that scientists have about space.
There are an infinite number of other universes
We like to think that the universe we live in is the universe, but actually, it may not be all that special. In fact, it might exist among an infinite number of others. I won't bore you with the confusing high-level physics (which you’d need a PhD to unpack anyway), but the gist is this: the Big Bang over 13 billion years ago was too powerful to have just created our own exponentially expanding universe. Rather, some astrophysicists argue, it spurred a whole bunch of other uniquely shaped and radically different universes, and we all coexist independently, separated by distances much greater than the 92 billion-light-year width of our own universe itself.
There is a hidden ninth planet in our solar system
Ever since Pluto was deemed too dwarfy to be a legit planet and booted out, it’s hard not to feel a little disappointed by our solar system. After all, nine is better than eight. But there is still hope that we'll be officially nine planets strong again, as there's increasing evidence to suggest there's a ninth Neptune-sized planet (aka Planet X) lurking far behind Pluto in an extremely elliptical orbit that brings it around the sun only once every 15,000 years.
We are living in a giant computer simulation created by super-advanced aliens
As many scientists have theorized, if aliens do indeed exist, odds are they're wildly more technologically advanced and maybe even millions of years ahead of us. Based on that premise, some scientists and philosophers have speculated that we actually exist in a reality created by them, as some sort of grand ancestral simulation game, where not only the world around us is simulated, but human consciousness itself is as well. Just one more thing to think about when you're trying to fall asleep tonight.
The universe will end by slowly freezing solid
There are plenty of theories about how the universe might end, but one of the most popular among scientists is called the Big Freeze or Big Chill. Essentially, the theory suggests that as the universe slows its expansion, it will slowly cool to a point where entropy sets in, planets and stars wither and die, and it no longer sustains life of any kind. True, space is already crazy cold, but we're talking absolute zero and zero light. No need to cash out your 401K and loot your way through Walmart, though -- if this happens it won't be for trillions of years.
Or by ripping itself apart
While the Big Freeze is generally considered the most likely scenario, scientists also speculate about the possibility of the universe ripping apart. The theory hinges around how dark energy -- the energy that's constantly pushing our universe outward -- behaves. If it isn't held constant, but is increasing over time instead, then it could potentially lead to a domino ripping effect that begins by tearing entire galaxies apart, and eventually ripping individual atoms.
The universe is a lopsided mess
For years, cosmologists believed that our universe was isotropic, or roughly similar in all directions (like the above image). However, some more recent findings suggest that for reasons unknown to us (and which can both explain and call into question some of our most basic scientific principles), the universe is actually lopsided in particular areas.
We are all living in an elaborate hologram
Although it sounds like a theory you'd cook up on a particularly celebratory 4/20, there are some very legitimate astrophysicists who believe there is merit to the notion that our entire three-dimensional universe is actually just a massive projection of a two-dimensional image. It’s looking less and less likely that we'll be able to prove the theory, but that won't stop a special US Department of Energy lab from testing it.
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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist and in fact not a theoretical physicist.