John Wheeler discusses his idea of "the big crunch."

Oral history audio excerpt

John Wheeler discusses his idea of "the big crunch."

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John, could I interject a question about the universe at large? You said once in an earlier interview that you saw the inevitability of the Big Crunch. When I was a student, we were told that it depended on the mass density: The universe might expand forever, or it might turn around and collapse. But at some point you reached a conclusion that the collapse was inevitable. Could you discuss what led to that insight and conviction?


Yes. What religious process [laughs] led me to feel that collapse was inevitable? Well, one could call it the principle of ecological clean-up. That might trigger a question about the extent to which I let what I might call aesthetic considerations influence my attitude to questions in physics.