Today, I went over to Amazon and purchased an MP3 of the theme song from the television series The Big Bang Theory. This song is written and performed by the group Barenaked Ladies and is a catchy little tune with the official title "History of Everything."
The version I bought from Amazon (which costs $0.99) lasted 1 minute and 45 seconds, which is significantly longer than the duration of the credit sequence on the television series. I wish the song was longer, but of course part of the point is zipping through the history of the universe very quickly, so it can't really become an extended ballad without losing a lot of the appeal.
Interestingly, though, this extended version goes beyond merely the history of everything and begins to make some predictions about the future ...
It's expanding ever outward but one day
It will cause the stars to go the other way,
Collapsing ever inward, we won't be here, it won't be heard
Our best and brightest figure that it'll make an even bigger bang!
As singer/guitarist Ed Robertson described in an interview, he was largely inspired by the book Big Bang, published in 2005 by British science writer Simon Singh. I haven't read the book, so don't know about what science is portrayed in the book ... but the translation into the song is a bit outdated, because the lyrics reflect an understanding of the universe that was essentially abandoned in 1998, nearly a decade before the song was written in 2007!
In 1927, Edwin Hubble discovered the expansion of the universe. Over the following years, scientists developed the Big Bang theory to explain this expansion. The Big Crunch is the theoretical idea that gravity will eventually overpower this expansion, causing the entire universe to someday collapse back together.
There's an elegant symmetry to this view of the universe, so it was appealing to many physicists, and it was perfectly consistent with all known laws of the universe. That is, until astrophysicists actually tried to measure the rate at which the expansion was slowing down. In 1998, they discovered that the universe was not decelerating ... but was actually accelerating! Some bizarre, previously-unknown force seemed to be pushing space itself apart!
Without knowing the exact properties of this dark energy (as it was called), it's unclear whether or not it'll be powerful enough to force the universe to expand forever or whether there might be enough matter in the universe to finally overcome the expansion. The current thinking is that a Big Crunch is becoming less and less likely.
Still, it makes for a catchy tune, some nice lyrics, and a fascinating image. And, who knows, maybe the universe could end in a big bang after all!