The universe is expanding at an accelerated rate, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson told Bill Moyers on Friday, and nothing appears to be able to stop it.
“You mean the House of Representatives cannot pass an act that will stop this? As they would like to?” Moyers quipped, before genuinely asking, “If the universe is pulling itself apart, does it ultimately disintegrate? Does it ultimately collapse?”
“No. There’s no evidence to say that we will ever recycle ourselves,” deGrasse Tyson responded. “All evidence points to we’re on a one-way trip to oblivion. So the universe expands, the temperature of the universe drops, all stars eventually will run out of fuel. So the stars, one by one, in the night sky will turn off. And in the extremely distant future, a quadrillion years into the future, there’ll be no light coming to us in the day or night sky.”
The current term for the force fueling this expansion, deGrasse Tyson explained, is “dark matter,” but he clarified that even that term implied that it has matter.
“What it truly is is dark gravity. Boom,” deGrasse Tyson said. “That’s a problem that’s been around since the 1930s. It’s the longest-standing, unsolved problem in astrophysics.”
deGrasse Tyson, the host of the revived exploration series Cosmos, told Moyers that astronomer Edwin Hubble found galaxies spreading apart from each other as far back as 1929. Decades later, astrophysicist Adam Riess won the 2011 Nobel Prize for his work on the “dark energy” phenomenon.
“It’s like me tossing a ball up into the air,” deGrasse Tyson said. “It’s moving upward even though it’s slowing down, okay? Gravity is slowing down that upward motion. We expected gravity to be slowing down the expanding universe. The opposite is happening. We don’t know what’s causing it.”
Watch deGrasse Tyson and Moyers’ discussion on “dark matter,” the expansion of the universe, and the legacy of Carl Sagan, as aired on Moyers & Company on Friday, below.