The Heat Death of the Universe

This lovely video, intimately crafted, was a delightful and wistful view into a time so far removed from us that it’s difficult to even get one’s head around. More years in the future than there are atoms in the observable universe, 8 * 10¹²⁰ years according to this imagining… but still fascinating.

Most of it is pure speculation, but it’s speculation based on mathematics that have been developed at this point in time, and real observations of the universe and what happens inside places like the Large Hadron Collider and other particle-generating devices.

Hasn’t happened yet.

If you’re not sure, the joke here is that some fear the energies generated within the Large Hadron Collider will be great enough to rip a hole in the fabric of space time, or to create a local black hole that will consume the earth. But thus far, this has shown no signs of happening.

The Large Hadron Collider

I’ve seen other such productions, equally thought-provoking, and all of them put me in mind of Isaac Asimov’s “The Last Question.” It’s a similar imagination, although somewhat simplified because the concept of black holes would only be posited two years after the story was written, of what happens when entropy reaches its ultimate terminal state, and there is no energy left anywhere in the universe at all. It revolves around humanity’s quest to stop the heat death of the universe, by asking ever-more powerful computers, “How can entropy be reversed?”

The eternal response

It’s a beautiful story, and I won’t spoil it, because it has an unexpected ending – one that always brings a few tears to my eyes – and it gives me hope for the continuation of life; I just love Asimov’s writings. I recall with fondness a dramatization of this story that I saw long ago at the Hansen Planetarium, when it was still at its original home in the renovated Salt Lake Public Library at 15 South State Street in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The old Hansen Planetarium

Fortunately or unfortunately, right now all we have to worry about is destroying our world by allowing climate change to proceed unchecked, and insane despots like Vladimir Putain knocking on the door of World War III with his rapacious attacks on innocent neighbors.¹ But from a scientific standpoint, it is captivating to imagine what will happen to our universe when all of these concerns have become moot.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Footnotes

¹

I stand with Ukraine.

One response to “The Heat Death of the Universe

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