Dr. Katie Mack: Death of a Universe

The Death of a Universe: a lecture by Dr. Katie Mack!

Dr. Mack is a theoretical astrophysicist who investigates the connections between the subatomic world and the Universe as a whole, including the mysterious nature of dark matter that shapes the cosmos and everything in it. Her efforts in astronomy outreach have amassed a huge following on twitter (@AstroKatie) and inspired countless young scientists. Dr. Mack gave a 45-minute presentation followed by a Q&A session.

The following is a blog post written by a highschool attendee about her experience and outlook following the event:

February 27th, 2020. A day to remember. And now, being in social isolation makes me appreciate the experience so much more, a great final hurrah!

And it truly was a fantastic day. After arriving at the Allan I. Carswell Observatory/Petrie Building, we waited for Dr. Katie Mack to arrive. A collection of high school and university students sat in a circle and chatted intimately, about everything under - and actually, beyond - the sun. I mean, who knew what a white hole is?! Well, technically it’s hypothetical, but still, a region that repels matter? Crazy (and awesome)! Not to mention hearing about the possible ways that the universe could end during her lecture… Between the Big Crunch, the Heat Death, the Big Rip and the Vacuum Decay theories - of galaxy collisions, of galaxy isolation, particle decay and burning out of stars, of entering a true vacuum from our present location in a false vacuum, among others - I truly felt amazed by all of the theoretical scenarios, the amount that there is to learn and analyze, how much all of this knowledge has evolved. From the moment I stepped into the auditorium, I was in awe. It was (literally) mind blowing!

I honestly learned so much from speaking with and listening to Dr. Mack, from astrophysics and cosmology to life lessons, and she no doubt perpetuated my love for and dream to study space. Having the opportunity to see her was beyond my expectations, more than I ever could have dreamed of (if you’d told my younger self that I would be speaking to a world-class astrophysicist, I would never have believed you), and the experience definitely influenced my post-secondary trajectory.

Above all, however, above even the potential ways that the universe could be destroyed (and the ones we heard about are only a select few!?!😭😂), the most important takeaway we received - in my opinion - was undoubtably the importance of perseverance. Katie Mack told us about her education and experience, emphasizing that it’s okay if things don’t go your way. If you overcome the obstacles hindering your success (be it academic or any other similar barriers) and try your absolute best in everything you do, you can do anything.

Meeting Katie Mack and being able to meet such an incredible, accomplished, educated and BEYOND inspiring woman was such a great opportunity, an event I am so glad to have attended! I absolutely cannot wait for her book to come out, The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking) on August 4th, and I hope you all choose to pick it up and read the words written by Dr. Katie Mack, who I had such an enormous privilege of hearing live (and I hope one day soon, we can be back, in person, in those auditoriums with Dr. Mack and others).

Thank you to everyone who facilitated and contributed to such a phenomenal and special event, be it the discussion, tour or lecture!

Stay safe and healthy ✨

- Noa

Gallery from the event:

The poster for the event:

The Big Bang theory tells the story of the beginning of the Universe, our cosmic home for the last 13.8 billion years. But what is the story of its end? Dr. Katie Mack shared what modern astrophysics tells us about the ultimate fate of the cosmos, and what each possibility would entail if there were people there to see it.

After the event, we visited public viewing and a tour of the Allan I. Carswell Observatory, which houses the largest university-run telescope in Canada.