The Huffington Post recently ran an article entitled, “Don’t Panic, but Our Universe Is Dying.” It begins: Don’t get too attached to the universe. It won’t be around much longer. The universe will long outlast Earth. However, in the cosmic sense, it is slowly dying. A team of international researchers measured the energy output across a large portion of space and found that it was only half of what it was a mere 2 billion years ago. And that decline will continue. In the simplest terms, the universe is not only burning out… it’s also fading away. “The universe will decline from here on in, sliding gently into old age,” Simon Driver, leader of the Galaxy and Mass Assembly (GAMA) project, said in a news release. “The universe has basically sat down on the sofa, pulled up a blanket and is about to nod off for an eternal doze.”
Hundreds of expert commenters then weighed in. I have only copied and pasted the first few here. Never have I seen such an amazing discussion. We are (I mean this sincerely) getting to the point at which the comments have become more interesting and provocative than the articles that inspired them. It is a crime that these short pieces won’t ever be collected into a book. I’m doing my part here to point out how much wisdom and knowledge and wit and poetry are out there, “unpublished,” anonymous, smart, untamed, unappreciated. This is the real Cultural Revolution. Forty years ago the “Yellow River Concerto” was written by the “Central Philharmonic Society of the People’s Republic of China.” We are getting there: Mao is winning: anonymous writers and composers and artists are here to stay, and gone are the old-fashioned bourgeois heroes on their pedestals. Eliot (sort of): “Do not let me hear / Of the folly of men, but of their wisdom.”
Timothy A. Wilkerson · Lab Manager/Technician at Laughing Lady Bug Botanicals
First of all, the only way this could be true is if the Universe is a closed system. We don’t know if it is or not.
Secondly, just because we haven’t found a part of the Universe that is regenerating doesn’t mean it’s dying.
Thirdly, since when has science believed the Universe is alive? I thought scientists think everything is a machine.
Furthermore, planets release hydrogen and other gases from their atmospheres into space, and even planets without atmospheres do the same. It is believed that the gravitational compression of hydrogen creates new Stars.
Also, hydrogen is released from heavier elements by bacteria in what we call decay. Hydrogen escapes our atmosphere at a rate of about three kilograms (and 50 grams of helium, the two lightest gases) per second. There is an estimated 60 billion planets that could harbor life. The Universe isn’t going anywhere soon and so the number of planets with life could reasonably go up.
Jeffrey S. Samuels
I would think that the dying thing was metaphorical, sort of like a fire dying without fuel.
Jerry Beauchesne · Wayne, New Jersey
We don’t even know if there are other universes are out there. The one we live in is over 13 billion years old, and originated from a starting point, that being the Big Bang. Who’s to say there are other multitudes of Big Bangs in the deep vastness of space?
Jerry Beauchesne: You have raised a very fundamental issue. Was the BB 13.7 billion years ago ordered by some supernatural power or not? If it was, then our universe is unique, that is to say there are probably no other ones according to most believers in a supernatural power. If it was not then there is no evidence to assume that ours is the only one.
I must be getting younger: over the years, I’ve converted much of my energy into excess mass.
Like a good program to protect your computer, you need to reject cookies. Especially the double chocolate ones with walnuts.
Tommy Morris · University of Dallas
First of all, our biggest concern is our own SOLAR SYSTEM…the Universe will be around long after our solar system dies out…the next order of concern would be our GALAXY…the Universe will be around long after our galaxy has died out…
My suspicion is mankind will not even be a memory on the dust of time by the time the Universe “dies.”
If EXISTENCE has taught us nothing else it should be that “life” is recycled and existence simply changes from one form to another.
But, since, it is illogical that ONLY one Universe exists, even if one died there would still be others remaining and there would be others being born still. Existence continues but it will not matter to humans who will not exist long enough as humans to worry about it.
One only has to look at the ignorance emanating from the Republican Party to see just how fragile human existence is. That Party is a cancer that would easily destroy mankind with its asinine policies.
Kee Llewellyn · New York, New York
Humans will be a bare memory in 100 years. We’ll never know what happens to the universe, much less our own planet. We are committing rapid sequence global suicide on a massive scale. The greatest likelihood is that the children born in this century will die in the mass destruction of all human life. All in the name of Gawd and the PROFITS.
The only good thing is that we cannot (yet) destroy the planet. In 1,000 years there will be almost no evidence we were ever here. In a million years even that will be gone. In less time than humans have walked upright, the planet will utterly erase its greatest failure: us.
Zachary Nicholas Heigle · Delgado Community College
Kee Llewellyn: Do you consider YOURSELF a failure?
Torrin Shusty Fields
Kee Llewellyn: Who spiked your LSD?
Again, how was energy created spontaneously? If there was no energy already in the system, where did the energy come from, and why did it spontaneously erupt at a particular moment?
Michael Runyan · University of Arkansas
It came from nothing, if you add everything together, matter and anti-matter, energy, dark energy, gravitational energy, it all adds up to zero (1+ (-1) = 0, we happen to be living in the 1 area.
Kee Llewellyn · New York, New York
Right. So the ONLY POSSIBLE explanation is an anthropomorphic human Caucasian male in a long white robe with a long white beard sitting on a cloud making it all appear out of nothing instead. It’s only LOGICAL! And it’s turtles all the way down.
Richard Schiffman · SUNY Potsdam
Actually the universe is both space and TIME. It will only die off completely when both concepts cease to exist. So even if say in a few trillion or so years every single star and galaxy “dies” off, any substance of matter even one as small as a photon will mean that the universe isn’t dead and as far as science is concerned photons can never die completely thus the universe lives on because both time and space i.e. matter still exists. This concept is known as “heat death”.
Richard Schiffman: time isn’t something that exists on its own. Time is merely an observation of entropy, where in a closed system entropy tends to increase.
This answers a very important question: How do we know the universe is a closed system? Because, entropy exists.
Now, when the universe has expanded to the point where there is nothing left but photons, entropy will have grown to its absolute maximum. At that point time itself ceases to exist entirely.
That is how the universe will end.
It doesn’t matter.
I will be dead millions and billions of years before the universe dies, and so will you and everyone else. Nothing lasts forever.
But it is interesting.
[someone responds] Yes, you Sir, will be Star Dust. Though Pixi Dust would be more fun.
Robert Lewis · Kent State University
Not to worry. Long, long before the universe fades away, the Sun will begin to run out of hydrogen to fuse into helium. The Sun will become a red star, expanding to the present orbit of Mars, combusting our atmosphere, destroying all life and turning everything on Earth into a cinder, so . . . .. at least there’s that to look forward to. Earth’s last human, Keith RIchards, has promised to tidy up on his way out.
Total oblivion. How novel.
Robert Lewis · Kent State University
Roderick McNeese: Unless, as Stephen Hawking has pointed out, we manage to get humans off this planet. he thinks we have a 200 year window . . . . I think he’s being uncharacteristically optimistic
It’s worth noting that this only takes the electromagnetic spectrum and not dark energy/matter into account.
Dark matter and dark energy have nothing to do with this.
Stuart Hamilton: Considering they contribute more to the rotation of galaxies and expansion of the universe than gravity, I’d reckon they have quite a lot to do with it.
Michael Fraser: Yes, but they have nothing to do with these direct observations that prove even more precisely than before that the universe is expanding exponentially.
Just because dark energy is causing the expansion doesn’t imply it has anything to do with our sidegrade electromagnetic observations of an expanding universe.
Basically, you claimed that the observations didn’t take dark energy into account. But they do. They reinforce the existence of dark energy, but since dark energy hasn’t yet been directly observed, it has nothing to do with how we prove its existence.
That’s why dark energy has nothing to do with it.
And, dark matter–along with its mass and subsequent gravity–especially has nothing to do with it, because the universe isn’t heavy enough to contract at all.
Jordan Kratz · Kenmore Square School of Rock
BUT………….first we have to deal with the Galaxy colliding with Anrdromeda Galaxy.
James Geiser · Cashier at Rite Aid
No. Actually we don’t have to deal with 2 Galaxies colliding. We will long be dead, so it won’t matter.
According to a study, Our planet will most likely be fine, as long as no stars go too near our solar system we won’t even notice it happening besides changes in the sky
Jeff Grotke · La Verne College of Law
in some sense it may be true that the universe is the “nothing”, if you look at the Higgs approach, none of us has any mass to begin with, unless passing through a Higgs field. So to become nothing we would be returning to the primordial soup.