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Far Future Will See No Evidence of Universe's Origin

Zonk posted about 7 years ago | from the man-that-is-a-cheery-thought dept.

Space 340

Dr. Eggman writes "According to an article on Ars Technica and its accompanying General Relativity and Gravitation journal article 'The Return of a Static Universe and the End of Cosmology', in the far future of the universe all evidence of the origin of the universe will be gone. Intelligences alive 100-billion-years from now will observe a universe that appears much the way our early 1900s view of the universe was: Static, had always been there, and consisted of little more than our own galaxy and a islands of matter. 'The cosmic microwave background, which has provided our most detailed understanding of the Big Bang, will also be gone. Its wavelength will have been shifted to a full meter, and its intensity will drop by 12 orders of magnitude. Even before then, however, the frequency will reach that of the interstellar plasma and be buried in the noise--the stuff of the universe itself will mask the evidence of its origin. Other evidence for the Big Bang comes from the amount of deuterium and helium isotopes in the universe.'"

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340 comments

Don't Wait For The End (0, Offtopic)

ReidMaynard (161608) | about 7 years ago | (#19710053)

Globaltics [globaltics.net] Political discussion for a new world

I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S NOT HORSECOCK! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19710277)

Score: 0 (Logged-in users start at Score: 1). Create an Account! To confirm you're not a script,
please type the word in this image: verification text - if you are visually impaired, please email us at pater@slashdot.org

But even worse (5, Funny)

catbutt (469582) | about 7 years ago | (#19710059)

by then, we'll be dead, which seems like the bigger problem.

Re:But even worse (1, Interesting)

norton_I (64015) | about 7 years ago | (#19710121)

Says you. If my granchildren don't have the possibility to live that long, I am going to be disappointed. I haven't dismissed the possiblity that I will still be around then, in some form or another.

Re:But even worse (0)

shawn443 (882648) | about 7 years ago | (#19710161)

100 billion years? I think we have a little more scientific advancement to go before we are a China full of Q's. At that point you must subscribe to the "We are all gods" view of human potential. Who knows.

Re:But even worse (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19710301)

At that point you must subscribe to the "We are all gods" view of human potential.

Maybe he's a Mormon? :-)

Re:But even worse (2, Funny)

lord_sarpedon (917201) | about 7 years ago | (#19710715)

A China full of Qs huh? I can just imagine the untapped potential for humanity that would spring forth at that point.

I can see it now -- penis enlargement then just a snap of the fingers away...

Finally, a solution to spam! 100 billion years!

Re:But even worse (1)

catbutt (469582) | about 7 years ago | (#19710413)

Actually its unlikely for me, as I am already 93 years old, you insensitive clod.

Re:But even worse (1, Funny)

buswolley (591500) | about 7 years ago | (#19710595)

93 year old catbutt? Gross.

Re:But even worse (5, Insightful)

ushering05401 (1086795) | about 7 years ago | (#19710141)

Nah, the bigger problem would seem to be that as far as we know we are the only sentients capable of taking advantage of the information currently available... which places a huge responsiblity on our shoulders.

If the far future will see an absence of this information then we have a responsibility to persist the data beyond the demise of our culture, whether or not another civilization will arise that can interpret the data. The information we can gather now would appear to be a limited resource given our current understanding of cosmology, and we who have access should derive what we can and pass the value on as others will not be able to do so.

Can you imagine the ID vs Evolution argument in an apparently static universe? Oh wait.. just pick up a history book and check out the executions, exiles, pariahs, and all the other fun stuff that happened to/became of our scientific forefathers back when the Earth was considered the center of a static universe.

Regards.

Re:But even worse (5, Insightful)

The One and Only (691315) | about 7 years ago | (#19710321)

But here's an interesting question--if documents were discovered from some ancient civilization that had a completely different cosmology, describing that cosmology, would you take those documents at face value? Suppose they contained measurements and recorded observations, as well as a prediction that future observations would differ in a certain way. I'm not sure the far future would believe us, so we would have some convincing to do.

The upside is, the people of the future can believe in a static universe, and insofar as their universe is compatible with that hypothesis, they're no worse off for not knowing the truth. If it turns out that the universe's origin does make a difference to them, there will no doubt be some observations that don't correspond with their static universe hypothesis, forcing them to adopt a hypothesis similar to ours. So by preserving our data and our theory we are indeed providing a possible solution to a future scientific problem.

Re:But even worse (2, Interesting)

ushering05401 (1086795) | about 7 years ago | (#19710425)

Funniest thing about these possibilities is that our descendants may still persist in some form.. and in that case, rediscovering the little cache of info their ancestors left behind could easily (and correctly) be interpreted as communication from an ancient alien race with a poor (perhaps doomed?) comprehension of cosmology.

I can see it now.. the philosophical debates about who these ancient creatures might have been... about how they were doomed from the get-go by their flawed and quaint interpretations of the cosmos.

*sigh*

I am only middle aged, but I miss the future already.

Regards.

Re:But even worse (2, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 7 years ago | (#19710693)

The upside is, the people of the future can believe in a static universe, and insofar as their universe is compatible with that hypothesis, they're no worse off for not knowing the truth.

Do we know the truth? Maybe there's another important factor in the equation which is as invisible for as now as dark energy domination would have been earlier in the universe's history. Or maybe there's something interesting in the universe's history of which all traces are already invisible now, just as the expansion of the universe will (probably) be invisible to the future people.

And BTW, who knows what they will be able to measure? We don't know the nature of dark matter and dark energy. Thus how do we know that examination of those (which might follow finding it e.g. in advanced accelerator experiments, independent from any astronomic observations) wouldn't reveal other signs of the origin of the universe, signs which are currently hidden from us (because we miss the required knowledge to observe them), and which would tell those future observers about the history of the universe anyway?

Re:But even worse (2, Insightful)

The One and Only (691315) | about 7 years ago | (#19710725)

The ancient Stoics believed the universe was born out of fire, and will return to fire. The reason we don't believe this is because they apparently made this up instead of making observations like we do and applying a scientific method. I'm sure that a future civilization with our data, along with their data, will come closer to an accurate theory so long as (a) our data are accurate, (b) they accept our data as accurate, and (c) their data are also accurate. We would of course be better off with data from before now, but unless ancient Atlantis had radio telescopes and teams of physicists studying cosmology, we're pretty much stuck with what we've got. You're right--we can never be omniscient anyway.

Re:But even worse (2, Insightful)

catbutt (469582) | about 7 years ago | (#19710447)

Why again is that our responsibility?

I mean, given that we've probably got another, say, 20 billion years till the information goes away, I guess I don't really feel the need to mark it as high priority on my to-do list.

Re:But even worse (1)

buswolley (591500) | about 7 years ago | (#19710613)

Heretic! Ha! Information wants to be free!

Re:But even worse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19710639)

Yeah, you take that attitude, but before you know it 20 billion years will have past, the information will be lost for good and then what will you do?

No it doesn't. (2, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 7 years ago | (#19710449)

Nah, the bigger problem would seem to be that as far as we know we are the only sentients capable of taking advantage of the information currently available... which places a huge responsiblity on our shoulders.
Christ, stars don't last that long, what chances do you think there are for information we can store? We can barely archive it for 20 years never mind 100 billion. Then there's the issue of finding a way of transmitting it or making it available.

Basically we have no responsibility to anyone but ourselves. Any species which exist in 100 billion years can go and get stuffed.

 

You'll be dead anyway. Here's why (5, Interesting)

Moraelin (679338) | about 7 years ago | (#19710757)

Let's put things in perspective a bit:

The universe itself is 13.7 billion of years old. Our Sun is only about 5 billion years old.

In this interval, the universe already burned a heck of a lot of Hydrogen to Helium, and even a lot of Helium to Carbon and so on until iron. You can't really have a star powered by fusing anything heavier, because fusing heavier stuff actually takes energy.

(Anything higher than that is formed in a supernova blast. Basically some of the immense energy of the supernova is used to fuse some of the ejected elements into even higher density stuff.)

Hydrogen is really the low hanging fruit of star fuel. It's for stars what the coal mines were for the industrial revolution. It's damn easy to start fusing hydrogen. (Easier if you have some heavier elements as catalysts to start the reaction, but the hydrogen will be the fuel anyway.) It's damn hard to start fusing anything else.

Even helium is tricky. It requires some _immense_ pressures and temperatures, and a state that's already degenerate matter. It even starts to happen somewhere between 100 and 200 million Kelvin. It's also a bloody unstable process. The released power is proportional IIRC to the temperature raised to the _30th_ power, so it's easy for it to run away: more power released rises the temperature some more, which rises the power some more (and rather abruptly at that), which rises temperature, etc. A star the size of our sun would just blow itself up almost instantly if it was made of Helium and actually ignited Helium fusion.

Where I'm getting is that the universe has a finite budget of hydrogen and keeps using it fast. (Well, "fast" by cosmic scales.) And then some of it gets buried in black holes and the like too. So planning to have main sequence stars in 100 billion years, is sorta like planning to still be using the oil in the middle east by then: chances are it will have run horribly thin, long time before that.

In 100 billion years, probably the best you could get is a brown dwarf, a.k.a., a star that doesn't actually fuse anything, but it heated up when collapsing into a star, and will need a horribly long time to cool down. And hopefully a planet that's close enough to it, to be just warm enough.

They'll be few and far in between though, so no telling if one will be close enough to move to it.

Also, lemme say: the only chance of life there will be that someone moves to it. If you look at long time Earth history, the Sun started a lot cooler when the Earth atmosphere was made of methane, so the massive greenhouse effect just helped keep temperature in the right band for life to appear. Then as the Sun heated up, life switched atmosphere to oxygen. We've been walking a tightrope on the border between turning into Venus (if life appeared just a little later) or turning into a deep-frozen snowball that kills everything (if photosynthesis started just a little earlier.) And we actually had a damn close shave with complete extinction, the planet-sized snowball kind.

A brown dwarf just doesn't follow that pattern. It doesn't gradually warm up, it actually starts (very very slowly) cooling down as soon as it formed. But you can pretty much approximate it as constant temperature, for the purpose of this discussion. And therein lies the problem: if it's cool enough for a methane-atmosphere planet to evolve life, that will turn into a permanent deep-frozen wasteland as soon as it evolves photosynthesis. And if it would be warm enough for an oxygen-atmosphere planet, then it's way too hot early when that planet is still methane-based. That planet will turn into Venus before it has half a chance to evolve life.

So pretty much in 100 billion years we're looking at a dead or dying universe anyway. Worrying that they'll have witch hunts is kinda silly, when, you know, there won't be anyone alive there.

Re:But even worse (2, Interesting)

Short Circuit (52384) | about 7 years ago | (#19710765)

While I have no problem archiving information for future intelligences, I really don't think intelligences 100 billion years from now will have any more difficult a time understanding their universe as we do now. (I am assuming, of course, that those intelligences are of a similar nature intellectually to our own. This may not be the case...)

Look at it this way: What if intelligences similar to ourselves were alive five billion years ago? Would they have any easier or more difficult understanding their universe as we do ours? How do we know that there weren't signals and information sources available then that have petered out today?

What it all boils down to is the sensory nature of the intelligence. Our understanding of the universe is framed in how we understand our environment. Astrophysics is merely an application of our own interpretation of things which we have only limited tools to understand. If we could personally sense neutrinos or gravity waves, for example, wouldn't our understanding of the universe be much different? It's conceivable that, if life existed in a sufficiently early period of the universe, sensory details such as these could be vital for life, while things like visible-spectrum EM pictures would be useless.

Who's to say that, 100 billion years from now, life will exist whose sensory perception takes advantage of physics that we can't? Astrophysics or quantum physics, there are things we don't understand. Perhaps the underlying causes would be more clear to life in 100 billion years than today.

Re:But even worse (0, Offtopic)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | about 7 years ago | (#19710197)

Dying once isn't such a big of deal. It's that second death you need to watch out for.

Huh? (1, Informative)

catbutt (469582) | about 7 years ago | (#19710401)

Lemme guess, religious wingnut?

Re:But even worse (1)

Jace of Fuse! (72042) | about 7 years ago | (#19710421)

It's that second death you need to watch out for.

I know it can make one feel a bit uneasy for the first few hundred times. Don't worry, though, it gets a little better in the thousands.

God (0, Offtopic)

macgyv3r (657157) | about 7 years ago | (#19710533)

God made the universe! )

Re:But even worse (4, Funny)

nomadic (141991) | about 7 years ago | (#19710567)

by then, we'll be dead, which seems like the bigger problem.

Well, let's narrow it down; the bigger problem is -I'll- be dead. That I think is something we all can agree is the biggest problem.

Re:But even worse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19710699)

I have a solution...

Everyone eat more big macs, hopefully we can pull those galaxies and nebulae back together.

Perhaps (1)

jshriverWVU (810740) | about 7 years ago | (#19710067)

unless it starts to shrink back into itself and form a singularity before the next Big Bang. But hopefully by then we will have worked out the tech to create an n-dimentional bubble to sit in. Anyone else here read books on string theory? :)

Re:Perhaps (1)

bvimo (780026) | about 7 years ago | (#19710075)

Nah, I prefer books on spring theory.

Re:Perhaps (2, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | about 7 years ago | (#19710377)

Personally I was very disappointed by the Big Boing theory, I found it bounced around with the main issues and tended to dampen my interest.

Re:Perhaps (1)

DreadCthulhu (772304) | about 7 years ago | (#19710097)

Current evidence suggest that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, thus it seems unlikely that it will shrink itself back down again.

Re:Perhaps (2, Interesting)

jshriverWVU (810740) | about 7 years ago | (#19710193)

Just off the top of my head, I'm not a physicist but I like to read. If the universe is expanding then it must be a finite area. If it's a finite area it must have a finite amount of energy. So if movement and expansion uses energy, then since there is finite energy it can not extend to infinity, thus it will stop growing at some point. Also in a near or perfect vacuum even small objects have a gravitational pull so they will begin to attract each other, so the universe will more than likely come back together.

The way I think of it is like taking a pot of boiling water and adding vegetable oil. Let turn off the fire and all those tiny bubbles of oil will start to come together. So if the universe works like that, it might be possible it wont come back together as a single singularity, but if there is enough distance that the gravitational forces don't attract the larger groups, it's possible we could end up with many pin-point size singularities and perhaps multiple big bangs.

Again I'm not a physicist, so take it with a grain of salt and add noodles :)

Re:Perhaps (2, Informative)

644bd346996 (1012333) | about 7 years ago | (#19710319)

Just off the top of my head, I'm not a physicist but I like to read. If the universe is expanding then it must be a finite area.
Nope. The rest of your logic is sound, but unfortunately it depends on that false assumption. The standard analogy is to imagine a 2d universe existing on the surface of a balloon. As you inflate the balloon, all points on the surface move away from each other. Now, realize that this is completely independent of the volume of the balloon, and it does not even require a finite surface area. Then extrapolate to three dimensions.

Re:Perhaps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19710353)

Just off the top of my head, I'm not a physicist but I like to read. If the universe is expanding then it must be a finite area. If it's a finite area it must have a finite amount of energy. So if movement and expansion uses energy, then since there is finite energy it can not extend to infinity

Of course you assume that it doesn't take a finite amount of energy to place some object at infinity. Look up potential functions and you will see that it does in fact take only a finite amount of energy to place something at infinity (for example: an electric charge).

Re:Perhaps (3, Informative)

beyondkaoru (1008447) | about 7 years ago | (#19710403)

well, regardless of the acceleration observations (which might be caused by other junk pulling on us, unknown phenomena, whatever), it is possible that our galaxy and others were given enough oomph to reach escape velocity relative to everyone else; since space could go on forever (that is to say, the stuff in it might only cover a small portion of it), the oil in a pot analogy doesn't work.

i know it might be a little counterintuitive, the concept of escape velocity (getting enough energy that you'll go fast enough to never have to be pulled back) might apply here. having finite energy does not mean that something can only go a finite distance.

i think the confusion arises from the definition of 'universe' -- people often use it to refer to spacetime or also the stuff in it. in terms of the expansion, we're usually referring to how we notice that we're getting further away from most other things we can see.

of course, all this speculation could get thrown out once we discover something tomorrow...

Re:Perhaps (4, Interesting)

glesga_kiss (596639) | about 7 years ago | (#19710721)

unless it starts to shrink back into itself and form a singularity before the next Big Bang.

That theory has always appealed to me as it solves once of the major questions of the universe. What led up to the big bang? The idea that the universe expands and collapse suggests that before the big bang there was another universe.

To me, the idea that there needs to be a start-point for the universe seems a little too human. We have the start of our lives, the start of the day and ultimately it all ends for each of us. But the life of an inanimate object isn't quite like that. Why can't the universe have always existed? What is time anyway, other than an abstraction of counting how often something vibrates? Isn't the idea that "it's always been there" far easier to grasp than "once there was nothing, now there is everything"?

LOL HY!!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19710079)

My Name is Jaap Ballgooen!!!

I have a problem!@

Assuming of course... (1, Insightful)

throatmonster (147275) | about 7 years ago | (#19710087)

...that those "intelligences" alive 100 billion years from now won't be any more intelligent that we are, and won't have any better technology to separate out the information from the noise. Who cares anyway? It won't matter to me.

Re:Assuming of course... (1)

Timesprout (579035) | about 7 years ago | (#19710133)

And also assuming they dont develop time travel so they wont care about trying to detect it because they can just go and watch it.

Re:Assuming of course... (1)

Teresita (982888) | about 7 years ago | (#19710159)

And also assuming they dont develop time travel so they wont care about trying to detect it because they can just go and watch it. Which assumes that the past exists as an objective record, beyond what we remember or write down. And THAT assumes that atoms are leaving behind little copies of themselves from moment to moment as "now" sweeps into the future.

Re:Assuming of course... (4, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | about 7 years ago | (#19710283)

Please, if you want to contribute to the conversation then make sure your science is grounded in Star Trek, anything else will just confuse us.

Re:Assuming of course... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19710337)

Mark my words, time travel in the normal sense is impossible. It's impossible because "time" doesn't exist. State changes, that's it.

While actually traveling through time is impossible, it may be possible to observe the past if you can figure out a way to travel faster than light (or observe some other currently undiscovered particle).

Re:Assuming of course... (1)

wellingj (1030460) | about 7 years ago | (#19710477)

LISTEN EVERY ONE! MARK THIS AC'S WORDS FOR TRUTH!!!!
but really how can we mark your words if we don't know who you are?

The amount of armchair science that gets flung around /. is often times sickening.
Provide links to back up crack-potiness. Otherwise why bother with speculation...

And no... IANNAH (I Am Not New Around Here)

Re:Assuming of course... (1)

Orestesx (629343) | about 7 years ago | (#19710515)

Ok, since you've clearly got all this figured out, using your presupposition that Faster-than-light travel is possible, you travel to some far away planet at faster than the speed of light (say, at a rate of 10,000 light years/year) and look back at earth and see early man hunting mammoths. You get back in your spaceship and travel at the same speed back to earth. What do you see when you get back?

I'm not saying that I believe time travel is possible, I agree, it's doesn't seem possible. But it's kind of silly to mention FTL (something not accepted by scientific orthodoxy) when you've already stated you don't believe in (reverse) time travel (something else not accepted by scientific orthodoxy).

You are assuming much too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19710249)

When the noise is above the signal by many order of magnitude, nothing even technology cannot help you anymore. Sure you can try summation and averaging of signal, but even those can only limit the noise, not supress it. It ain't a matter of tech, it is a matter of random signal and maths.

This really makes you wonder... (5, Insightful)

Bacon Bits (926911) | about 7 years ago | (#19710095)

I really wonder what we've missed simply because the evidence is long gone.

Re:This really makes you wonder... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19710329)

What you mean like His blueprints? It's amazing what can disappear in 6000 years...

Re:This really makes you wonder... (1)

glesga_kiss (596639) | about 7 years ago | (#19710743)

What you mean like His blueprints? It's amazing what can disappear in 6000 years...

Has He looked down the back of the sofa? That's where I usually find things.

Re:This really makes you wonder... (1)

captn ecks (525113) | about 7 years ago | (#19710505)

And of course if you think about it this 'has' to be true to some extent. Hence the 'problems' with finding out what happened 'before' the big bang, etc.

Hmmmm... this makes scienctific research a very stable career option!

Re:This really makes you wonder... (1)

noidentity (188756) | about 7 years ago | (#19710577)

I'm sorry, you need to turn in your "human" card. You can't go questioning our dogmatic knowledge that we know everything and aren't missing anything.

(seriously, good question)

God Did It (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19710117)

The Creationists were right, and God created a universe that lies about its own past. It's just taking him a while to finish covering up all His tracks, that's all.

Humans are a throwaway test case to see what holes He still needs to plug before He introduces His _real_ creation in a hundred billion years.

How much has already been lost? (0, Offtopic)

Teresita (982888) | about 7 years ago | (#19710119)

Maybe God already wrote "Yeah I did it" in Hebrew using subtle differences in the Microwave Background Radiation that was clearly detectable from about 300,000 years after the big bang until roughly around the time he had enough trans-helium elements to start toying around making planets.

Re:How much has already been lost? (4, Funny)

Admiral Ag (829695) | about 7 years ago | (#19710431)

No. In ancient Hebrew he would have written "YH DD T" or more likely "YHWH WS HR LLZ!"

Re:How much has already been lost? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 7 years ago | (#19710741)

No, he wrote "Sorry for the inconvenience."

Well, maybe not with current methods, but... (2, Interesting)

Slashboo (972567) | about 7 years ago | (#19710123)

Sure, maybe the evidence we have now to back up our theories on the beginning of the universe will not exist in the far future, but what makes people think that this is the only evidence there is? I'm sure that by the time current evidence become unavailable, future scientists will already find other evidence to replace it.

Re:Well, maybe not with current methods, but... (2, Interesting)

kebes (861706) | about 7 years ago | (#19710517)

I was at a physics conference a few years ago and one of the plenary lectures was on this topic. The speaker basically put forth all the various cosmological models (expanding universe with slowing expansion, universe that eventually collapses back on itself, etc.) and concluded that: "Based on our current understanding, we live in the worst possible universe."

This is because, according to our best measurements, the universe it not only expanding, but the rate of expansion is increasing with time. Thus the universe's expansion is accelerating (this is the indirect evidence for "Dark Energy [wikipedia.org] ").

This is "the worst possible scenario" because it can easily be shown (in a mathematically rigorous way) that as expansion occurs, the universe will become isolated islands of matter, which are flying away from each other so fast that they cannot hope to communicate with one another. This means that ultimately no information from one region of the universe can ever reach another region, which makes it impossible to reconstruct what happened in the distant past. Worse still, it can be shown that this leads to "Heat Death [wikipedia.org] ", where the universe becomes very very cold (because, for example, objects radiate energy that is lost into space and never comes back, nor is replaced by any influx of energy). The end result is that there is not enough energy density to sustain life or any organized constructs. So the end state is one of extremely high entropy, with no usable information content.

This is not just a matter of not having good enough technology. The problem is that the universe will expand and local regions will irrevocably lose the ability to probe the past. Information will be inaccessible. No matter how good your technology is, the evidence will simply be locally nonexistent (because information can't travel faster than the speed of light).

Now, having said all that, it's entirely possible that new measurements will point to something previously unknown (e.g. perhaps the explanation for dark energy changes the conclusions entirely). However if current models are mostly correct, then a progression towards locally isolated regions of space, who have no access to cosmological history, is inevitable.

AAhhhhh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19710147)

> 100-billion-years from now

Aaaaahhh! 100 billion years, you're stressing me out!

The authors make some questionable assumptions (4, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 7 years ago | (#19710153)

- The current model of the universe's origin is essentially correct. What if we're the ones living in a "post-cosmology universe," and the evidence for what really happened has faded so much that we can't detect it?

- Currently observable stars, background radiation, etc., are all we or anyone else will ever be able to observe. Almost surely, we'll come up with better technology to observe the stuff we already know to look for; quite possibly, we'll discover entirely new things (different forms of radiation, etc.) to use in forming a more complete picture. The same goes for our hypothetical observers in the far future.

- Human perception is as good as it gets. Anything living 100 billon years from now will be so different from us that it may perceive the world around it in completely different ways, and will accordingly have different technology for astronomy and everything else.

Re:The authors make some questionable assumptions (1)

Timesprout (579035) | about 7 years ago | (#19710241)

What if we're the ones living in a "post-cosmology universe," and the evidence for what really happened has faded so much that we can't detect it?
Then our Bible would actually be Bible II and Bible I would tell us what really happened.

Re:The authors make some questionable assumptions (1)

Icarus1919 (802533) | about 7 years ago | (#19710269)

Are you trying to tell me humans aren't the most important thing in the universe? Pish tosh!

Re:The authors make some questionable assumptions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19710497)

Pish tosh!

Is that Peter Tosh's son or something?

Re:The authors make some questionable assumptions (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 7 years ago | (#19710719)

What's your nomination? I mean, at first I laughed at your comment... but then I thought about it... if not humans, then what exactly would be more important?

Re:The authors make some questionable assumptions (1)

Movi (1005625) | about 7 years ago | (#19710535)

> What if we're the ones living in a "post-cosmology universe," and the evidence for what really happened has faded so much that we can't detect it? What's more, what if this is a circular process? What if the universe expands and collapses in a certain time, and no civilization ever managed to evolve so rapidly as to avoid its demise? That would be the ultimate evolutionary shaping process - to create a species which could whitstand the destruction of its universe. Think for a moment what that would mean.

Re:The authors make some questionable assumptions (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 7 years ago | (#19710549)

Human perception is as good as it gets. Anything living 100 billon years from now will be so different from us that it may perceive the world around it in completely different ways, and will accordingly have different technology for astronomy and everything else.
The eye has developed independently several times on earth. You only need two for distance perception. We are bipedal because a 3rd leg would be unnecessary, and 1 wouldn't be up to the task of allowing us to survive. We needed to free up two limbs to act as manipulators. Ears allow us to hear prey and predators, again only two required for distance and direction perception.

Basically, there's good reason to believe that any intelligent technologically sophisticated life which exists won't be entirely dissimilar.

 

Re:The authors make some questionable assumptions (1)

QuantumG (50515) | about 7 years ago | (#19710615)

All those arguments were made by astronomers and physicists, and before the genome revolution. Go ask a genetic biologist why we look the way we do and you'll find that the quadratic configuration has more to do with fish DNA than it has to do with what's simplest.

Re:The authors make some questionable assumptions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19710713)

- The current model of the universe's origin is essentially correct. What if we're the ones living in a "post-cosmology universe," and the evidence for what really happened has faded so much that we can't detect it?

Of course, this is the case. We need quantum gravity, at least. Why else don't our models yet describe what went on inside the Big Bang in detail? "But that's only infinitesimal fractions of a second!" Only seems small by comparison with the years our bodies happen to live.

But as far as what we think we know, the evidence we have (and they will lack) has been sufficient to convince the entire scientific community to change its views. Redshift data and the CMB alone show very clearly that the universe is currently expanding from a former state of thermal equilibrium; as scientific statements go, these ones really are incontrovertible. On a scale of "How likely are you to be right," doubting them is akin to doubting evolution (but perhaps it deserves less ridicule than we usually give creationists; not many laymen actually understand the data). If observers in the future cannot discover that the Big Bang happened, then we will almost certainly know something they do not. They may know things we do not know, and we may share ignorance of other things (like the details of the Big Bang), but those are separate issues.

The sobering thought your question raises is "What if there isn't enough information for us to find all the answers about cosmology, even if we can find more than those other guys will?" Well, we've always known that might be. It will be sad though, if we're still around in a millenium and we've had to admit defeat.

- Currently observable stars, background radiation, etc., are all we or anyone else will ever be able to observe. Almost surely, we'll come up with better technology to observe the stuff we already know to look for;

Yes, we'll develop better technology, but there are limits set by the need for usable statistics. If the signal is completely washed out, there's only so much you can do.

quite possibly, we'll discover entirely new things (different forms of radiation, etc.) to use in forming a more complete picture. The same goes for our hypothetical observers in the far future.

Likely true, but there remains the question: if this new radiation is so hard to detect, how much harder would it be to form a detailed image with it? We discovered light before we discovered neutrinos because very few neutrinos are blocked even by the Earth, much less by a smaller detector. If it takes huge sensor arrays to detect 10 neutrinos a day, it seems an impossible task to use them for measurements. Then how can new radiation that's even harder to detect serve us better?

It's possible, don't get me wrong. But unless the laws of physics change substantially in that time, it's hard to see how.

- Human perception is as good as it gets. Anything living 100 billon years from now will be so different from us that it may perceive the world around it in completely different ways, and will accordingly have different technology for astronomy and everything else.

Yes, but it must still perceive a signal of some kind, and we don't know of any type of signal that will be useful for this in the future, hence the article. If they experience everything in Fourier transform space or something, it's hard to see that it would help. If they receive signals from some other media, then we're back to undiscovered types of radiation.

Granted, we can't rule out all your objections, but I'm inclined to raise another one which contains slightly more hope. As we learn more about cosmology, we will hopefully find more subtle signatures of the Big Bang, which may not be eradicated in the future. Not necessarily new physics, new forms of radiation, etc.; just someone going "You know, we never thought of this, but here's something else the Big Bang model predicts."

Re:The authors make some questionable assumptions (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 7 years ago | (#19710773)

- Human perception is as good as it gets. Anything living 100 billon years from now will be so different from us that it may perceive the world around it in completely different ways, and will accordingly have different technology for astronomy and everything else.

Almost everything we currently observe in science is outside the range of human perception. The limitations of human perception (or the perception of whatever intelligent beings there will be in the far future) is largely irrelevant. This doesn't of course invalidate your other two points.

I'm sure (1)

hlomas (1010351) | about 7 years ago | (#19710167)

that this article will be relevant in 100 billion years.

Re:I'm sure (5, Funny)

tomhudson (43916) | about 7 years ago | (#19710287)

"that this article will be relevant in 100 billion years."

Nah, it'll have experienced the "dupe death" as its reposted countless times, each time increasing its entrophy, losing a few letters here, having a few more arranged there ..

Today:

The cosmic microwave background, which has provided our most detailed understanding of the Big Bang, will also be gone. Its wavelength will have been shifted to a full meter, and its intensity will drop by 12 orders of magnitude. Even before then, however, the frequency will reach that of the interstellar plasma and be buried in the noise--the stuff of the universe itself will mask the evidence of its origin. Other evidence for the Big Bang comes from the amount of deuterium and helium isotopes in the universe.'"
Today + n dupes:

detailed understanding will also be gone.
a full meter,
the frequency will reach that of the interstellar plasma and be buried in
the noise--the stuff of the universe itself
evidence for the Big Bang comes from the isotopes in the universe.'"

Today + n * x dupes:

le t
the r e
b e
the Big Bang
!

Time zero

*

Time zero +1

\ | /
-- * --
/ | \

Time zero + z

The cosmic microwave background, which has provided our most detailed understanding of the Big Bang, will also be gone. Its wavelength will have been shifted to a full meter, and its intensity will drop by 12 orders of magnitude. Even before then, however, the frequency will reach that of the interstellar plasma and be buried in the noise--the stuff of the universe itself will mask the evidence of its origin. Other evidence for the Big Bang comes from the amount of deuterium and helium isotopes in the universe.'"

Because we all know, what goes around, comes around.

Re:I'm sure (1)

Farmer Tim (530755) | about 7 years ago | (#19710369)

that this article will be relevant in 100 billion years.

For once Slashdot has a story that isn't weeks out of date, and you still complain. There's no pleasing some people...

The far future (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19710169)

In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war...

The evidence will be... (1)

gardyloo (512791) | about 7 years ago | (#19710191)

...anecdotal, but it'll be there: it is probable that the article will be duped on slashdot until at least 100 billion years from now.

News flash: Ars Technica will also be gone by 100 (1)

BrentRJones (68067) | about 7 years ago | (#19710207)

News flash: Ars Technica will also be gone by 100 years from now and all of us readers will be gone then too.

"Mortality just snuck up on me and stole my soul." --Slashdot ID #1 (RIP)

Re:News flash: Ars Technica will also be gone by 1 (1)

westlake (615356) | about 7 years ago | (#19710575)

News flash: Ars Technica will also be gone by 100 years from now and all of us readers will be gone then too.

Perhaps and perhaps not.

The current living "record holder" is 114. The Oldest Human Beings [recordholders.org]

Assuming there isn't another Big Bang, first (1)

UnderCoverPenguin (1001627) | about 7 years ago | (#19710223)

But on the off chance there isn't another Big Bang, I wonder whether we could build a repository that would have any chance of lasting that long? (yes, I know about the disks on the voyager probes, but are they even close to being duarble enough?)

Take a moment please (1)

dapho (939695) | about 7 years ago | (#19710245)

Let us all microwave a burrito for a couple moments to mourn the coming expansion of microwave radiation frequency, much like our burritos will soon explode from being left in for too long.

A brief glimpse (2, Interesting)

n3tcat (664243) | about 7 years ago | (#19710265)

We have a very brief glimpse in the overall timeline of the universe. For all we know, the universe will switch directions of movement sooner than we expect. It could be that what we know of as the universe is actually just crap floating in the lungs of a huge beast and the universe shifts back and forth with each breath.

Honestly I never understood what gave scientists the idea that they would ever have enough of a clue to know what was going on with the universe. I'm not saying it's wrong to do. Perhaps some awesome realization will come from it. I just really hope that there aren't any scientists that truly believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is exactly what is happening out there.

Re:A brief glimpse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19710355)

I just really hope that there aren't any scientists that truly believe beyond a shadow of a doubt
Well, good news then! All scientists doubt. Doubt is science. Something isn't scientific unless it can, in principle, be falsified. The greatest and only sin in science is faith.

Re:A brief glimpse (1)

catbutt (469582) | about 7 years ago | (#19710361)

I just really hope that there aren't any scientists that truly believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is exactly what is happening out there.
Never met a scientist that thinks that way. But the religious folks that do think that way outnumber scientists 100 to 1.

Wise words (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19710689)

Exactly. The very second that scientist choose the terms they want to use to describe their universe, they already have chosen a particular interpretational strategy to apply to that universe. Nothing wrong with that and it has brought us many wonders - just don't mistake these achievements for certain knowledge by any measure.

should we seed the universe with time capsules ... (1)

planetfinder (879742) | about 7 years ago | (#19710349)

containing these profundities in some universal code. Or should we avoid potential embarrassment
and sit on this one a while just in case we learn new physics in the next eon or two.

To be fair these scientist probably do have something interesting to say about the long term evolution of the universe
implied by contemporary theoretical models. I would appreciate it if they didn't try to describe it in terms
pseudo-physical semi-philosophical techno-babble like the "anthropic principle". GAG.
I guess that's what you have to do to get picked up by a rag among rags.

Universe is 14 billion years old (1)

syousef (465911) | about 7 years ago | (#19710359)

What is the point of this article? That we should be planning for 100 billion years into the future, when the whole universe is around 14 billion years old? We can't even get off this damned rock yet and until we can there's no chance of our species outlasting the sun going red giant and nova which is no where near 100 billion years out.

Interesting to ponder but of not much use even to the theoreticians at this stage.

Re:Universe is 14 billion years old (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19710479)

(dons flame proof armor of anonymity)

"What is the point of this article? That we should be planning for 100 billion years into the future, when the whole universe is exactly 6000 years old?"

there, fixed that for you.

Re:Universe is 14 billion years old (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19710711)

Interesting to ponder but of not much use even to the theoreticians at this stage.

99 billion years from now for that matter.

hmm (1)

DavoMan (759653) | about 7 years ago | (#19710371)

So does this mean god didn't create everything? I saw an episode of family guy where god lit one of his farts & it made the big bang

Copyright? (5, Funny)

geoff lane (93738) | about 7 years ago | (#19710373)

I found this hidden within the value of Pi expressed in base 11...

Copyright: Year Dot God. All rights reserved.

This universe represents copyrighted material and may only be reproduced in whole for personal or classroom use. It may not be edited, altered, or otherwise modified, except with the express permission of God.

We're the answer (1)

shine-shine (529700) | about 7 years ago | (#19710397)

Maybe we'll be around to tell them about it.

Re:We're the answer (1)

PoopDaddy (1064616) | about 7 years ago | (#19710663)

And they'll be like, "Sure, whatever, grampa." and space-skateboard off to a cooler solar system.

Alternate Universe (1)

future assassin (639396) | about 7 years ago | (#19710409)

Then we'll just pop over into an alternate universe and study that one.

How do we know... (1)

Barkmullz (594479) | about 7 years ago | (#19710445)


IANAP, but if we are using our current understanding of the universe to make this claim, how do we know there is not some yet-to-be-discovered method of detecting the evidence of the origin of the universe in the far future?

Re:How do we know... (1)

plutoniah (545112) | about 7 years ago | (#19710481)

conversely, doesn't this argue that we might not have any true idea of what happened 100 billion years ago, as all traces of that long ago past will have faded by now?

Y100B Compliant (5, Funny)

Ryunosuke (576755) | about 7 years ago | (#19710451)

How can I tell if my computer is Y100B compliant? I want to be able to read about this on slashdot in 100B years

Finally, I got it. (3, Funny)

MrCopilot (871878) | about 7 years ago | (#19710509)

1. Take polaroids.
2. wait 100 billion years.
3 profit.

Seriously this implies all information from now will be lost. Pretty Dim view.

What Do We *Already* See No Evidence Of? (3, Interesting)

mkcmkc (197982) | about 7 years ago | (#19710527)

Turning this around, could it be that we already cannot see crucial pieces of evidence about the origin of the universe, life as we know it, or whatever?

Just as an example, current thinking is that we're the first technically advanced society on earth, because we see no archaeological traces of previous societies. But, what if the previous society (or societies) had advanced technology that (a) was used to scrub the earth of their low-tech origins, and (b) left no traces when the society vanished, much as ice sculptures leave no traces when they melt?

Is there any real evidence against this sort of thing? (Occam's Razor, I know. But that's an incredibly pitiful rebuttal...)

Re:What Do We *Already* See No Evidence Of? (2, Insightful)

QuoteMstr (55051) | about 7 years ago | (#19710583)

Any previous advanced civilization on earth would have depleted its mineral resources in its rise to high technology, just as we have. That we have (or had, anyway) oil, coal and natural gas in abundance indicates that we are indeed the first civilization to arise on this planet. These resources take hundreds of millions of years to form, and complex life hasn't been around long enough for that to have happened twice.

Not only are we the first civilization, but we are likely to be the last. Any future society is unlikely to progress beyond an agrarian feudal society due to dearth of natural resources. We can't screw this one up!

Re:What Do We *Already* See No Evidence Of? (2, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | about 7 years ago | (#19710749)

Not only are we the first civilization, but we are likely to be the last. Any future society is unlikely to progress beyond an agrarian feudal society due to dearth of natural resources. We can't screw this one up!

That a civilization which has an abundance of oil, coal and natural gas would use it, doesn't imply that it is necessary. Water wheels and wind mills have been in use for a long time, and could be used to generate electricty once someone invented the generator. The steam engine only relies on a boiler than can be powered by wood. They could skip right past fossil fuels and discover biodiesel, fuel cells, solar cells and other modern forms of energy.

The biggest question to ask would be why it would vanish. Yes, civilization come and go but very rarely have we abandoned anything of consequence unless the whole city was founded on a natural resource that ran out or something like that. If a second crivilization was to araise, I think the biggest clue would be the nuclear waste, toxins and pollutants, destroyed ecosystem and traces of an infiniately large disaster which could possibly cause our abandoment or extinction.

Hurry! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19710559)

We must enlighten (or get rid of) all creationists before it's too late.
Like trying to explain them a bit of science isn't already hard enough.

Well this is good news indeed (1)

pair-a-noyd (594371) | about 7 years ago | (#19710569)

for the fundies. Oh wait, it won't matter because surely they will be raptured up long before then. Right?

Re:Well this is good news indeed (1)

slughead (592713) | about 7 years ago | (#19710637)

Oh wait, it won't matter because surely they will be raptured up long before then. Right?

Yep, any day now... Like right .. *NOW!*... Wait, Ok, guess not... what about... *NOW!*... alright but that doesn't mean it's not going happen *NOW!* Oh well it was obvious it wasn't going to be then, because we have Nostradamus' prediction that the world will end in the year--... oh wait, that has already passed... Well Newton says it's gonna be in 2060, and if he's wrong, we can probably dig up some other doom-sayers as well.

Eventually, someone's bound to get it right. You may as well hold your breath, it's neigh I tells ya! THE END IS NEIGH!!

They'll be real smart by then (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19710621)

They will have invented time travel some time in the next billion years. There will be tours to the big bang ... sort of like the 'Restaurant at the End of the Universe'.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Restaurant_at_the _End_of_the_Universe [wikipedia.org]
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