A group of investigators at the University of Maryland, in the United States, announce that they were recently able to simulate the end of time. They say that the conditions they replicated are known to astronomers as the Big Crunch, or the final event to take place in the Universe.
What the scientists determined was that the Cosmos will not end with another bang, like some theories suggest, but rather with a higher harmonic generation. The new study was carried out on metamaterials, synthetic materials that were created for a specific purpose.
They have properties that would not appear in nature. Most often, metamaterials are used for light manipulation, which is precisely what the University of Maryland did. Experts here simulated the end of the Universe by watching how light behaves in these materials.
In the past, the same team used similar approaches to create a microscale Big Bang on a laboratory workbench, so the new study is just a natural continuation of previous research efforts, Wired reports.
Researchers were particularly interested in the Big Crunch theory, one of the proposals seeking to explain how the Universe will end, billions to trillions of years from now. What the idea holds is that the metric expansion of the Cosmos will at one point reverse.
This will lead to all the matter collapsing on a single point. Numerous mergers will occur, until eventually everything that currently populates the Universe will be contained within a black hole.
For the new experiments, researchers took advantage of the fact that the equations describing spacetime can be used to explain how light travels through metamaterials. The team drew parallels between the two phenomena, and used light as a proxy for the fate of the Cosmos.
Igor Smolyaninov, an electrical engineer at the university, says that the study revealed photons going through a higher harmonic generation. In layman's terms, this means that the elementary particles exhibited a sudden and significant rise in frequency and energy.
The new study is detailed in the July 20 issue of the online journal arXiv. Researchers explain that the experiments were also able to simulate the behavior of matter around black holes. At this point, the team is focused on finding an analogue for Hawking radiation.
“Normally, if you have a black hole and a particle near the event horizon, that’s the end of the story. But according to Hawking radiation, one particle is absorbed and another let out. In classical physics, this is forbidden, but in quantum physics it’s allowed,” Smolyaninov says.
“Black holes don’t just absorb everything,” he goes on to say. The interactions between light and these massive objects are what make photons gain higher energies and frequencies.