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Space Science

Far Future Will See No Evidence of Universe's Origin 340

Posted by Zonk
from the man-that-is-a-cheery-thought dept.
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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Far Future Will See No Evidence of Universe's Origin

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  • by catbutt (469582) on Sunday July 01, 2007 @04:07PM (#19710059)
    by then, we'll be dead, which seems like the bigger problem.
    • Re:But even worse (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ushering05401 (1086795) on Sunday July 01, 2007 @04:19PM (#19710141) Journal
      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 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by The One and Only (691315) * <[ten.hclewlihp] [ta] [lihp]> on Sunday July 01, 2007 @04:39PM (#19710321) Homepage

        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: (Score:3, Interesting)

          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
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by maxwell demon (590494)

          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 t

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            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

            • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

              by rho (6063)

              Here's what's always annoyed me about astronomers/cosmologists/telescope jockeys of all stripes. They love to talk about how what they do is science, and to the extent that they apply the scientific method to their work, they are right. But simply because they are applying the scientific method does not make what they produce a fact. After crunching some numbers, the space geeks come back to us and let us know that the Universe is 4 billion years old, not 5 billion years old like we thought.

              What? Only an

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                What? Only an idiot would say that. But "according to current theories, if all our observations are correct, and not accounting for things that we don't know and/or don't understand, we put a date of 4 billion years on the age of the Universe" doesn't really sync with how NOVA likes the TV show to flow.

                That's pretty much implicit for everything we claim to know. You could just as well say, "according to current theories, if all observations are correct, and not accounting for things that we don't know and

        • Re:But even worse (Score:5, Interesting)

          by eu_virtual (994133) on Sunday July 01, 2007 @06:04PM (#19710815)
          Theres a cool little story about these same questions here, for anyone that wants to read it: http://www.365tomorrows.com/06/23/37-hands/ [365tomorrows.com] Just a sneak peak: "He couldn't believe this debate was still going on. For years they had assumed that the Manhattan Inflation Trial in 4838 had put the lid on the silly notion that the universe contained billions of galaxies. Billions! Zed looked out the window at the smooth black plane of the night sky. One-two-three-four-five-six. Six galaxies. There they were. It was so basic, so obvious. Any kid with a neutron telescope could make the observation for themselves!"
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by catbutt (469582)
        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.
      • No it doesn't. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Colin Smith (2679)

        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.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Short Circuit (52384)

          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.

          But it's insanely simple...Just transmit the entire archive using some encoding using EM radiation. Your "archive" is thus stored in a volume of space as a media stream. As long as it can be intercepted and eventually decoded by whoever "finds it", you're good.

          The difficulty lies in transmitting it at a high enough power to still have a workable signal elsewhere in the galaxy. To this end, one could build a Dyson sphere around a sun, then block or transmit the star's light according to your signal.

          Yeah,

      • by Moraelin (679338) on Sunday July 01, 2007 @05:53PM (#19710757) Journal
        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.
        • by benhocking (724439) <benjaminhockingNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Sunday July 01, 2007 @06:13PM (#19710889) Homepage Journal

          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.
          Bah, you Alpha Centaurians and your "peak hydrogen" alarmism! But seriously, we're not burning through Hydrogen fast even by cosmic scales. The universe still has 75% of its original hydrogen left. Presumably, the rate at which we'll use it will decrease as we use it up. However, you have a valid point that by 100 billion years (~8x the current age), there's a good chance that the 75% figure might be more like 7.5%. (I'm completely making up that last figure.)
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Moraelin (679338)
            Well, that's really the thing. 25% gone in 13.7 billion years is a _lot_, when you're talking 100 billion years.

            Will usage decrease? Well, that wouldn't make it that horribly much better, because that means, in a nutshell, less main-sequence stars.

            It will also mean more hydrogen which technically still exists, but is going nowhere: it's trapped in brown dwarfs that never start fusion, Jupiters, black holes, etc. Those things don't blow up, so basically short of some cataclismic event like head-on star colli
            • Oh no, I agree (Score:3, Interesting)

              by benhocking (724439)

              I just wouldn't call that "fast", even by (currently) cosmic scales. For example, I'm 37. If you told me I could get to some destination in 74 years (for example), I wouldn't call that "fast".

              Now, here's a real calculation, albeit one that's still based on completely unfounded assumptions: if the decay is exponential, then 100 billion years from now (when the universe is apprxomately 114 billion years old), there will be approximately 0.75^(114/14) or 9.6% of the hydrogen left.

              On the other hand, if the

              • by Moraelin (679338)
                Duly noted, and you are right. "Fast" or "slow" are horribly relative terms, and I should have qualified it better than that. If it's any help, I meant "for a 100 billion years deadline." It's too fast for that particular race, though, indeed, you are right, by a lot of other kinds of reckoning it's not fast at all.
          • Re:Peak hydrogen (Score:5, Informative)

            by Hewligan (202585) on Sunday July 01, 2007 @07:39PM (#19711405)

            While 25% of the universe's hydrogen may have been converted to heavier elements, about 24% was converted in the first second or so, and then about 1% in the ensuing 13.7 billion years. At that rate, there will be plenty left in 100 billion years time.

            • However, that 25% figure ignores the hydrogen that gets trapped in black holes, etc. Still, I think you're right that we will still have plenty of hydrogen in 100 billion years. (I don't know, but I think the black hole absorption of hydrogen to be less than the consumption of hydrogen due to fusion.) Peak hydrogen indeed!
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Genda (560240)

          All of this is moot if there the latest ideas involving the "Big Rip" turn out to be correct.

          In this scenario, Dark Energy continues to cause accelerating inflation of the universe until that inflation begins to effect objects of smaller and smaller scale. At first the galaxies will all go away, too far away to see. Later, nearer the end stars will be flung beyong our view. Very near the end, the sun will suddenly shrink out of existance and the space between the earth and the sun grows infinitely. At the

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Short Circuit (52384)
        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 u
      • by localman (111171)
        Even if we record the information, without the ability to experimentally verify it, the big bang will be nothing but legend to the people of the distant future. What irony! There will be nothing but an old book proclaiming universal expansion and cosmic microwave background and... would you believe anything you just read in some old book?

        Hmm. That really put our existence and it's long term futility into sharp perspective for me. Dammit.
      • by kryten_nl (863119)
        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.

        It's probably in Google's cache by now. Problem solved.
    • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday July 01, 2007 @05:17PM (#19710567) Homepage
      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.
    • by IdleTime (561841)
      Hi! My real name is John Titor and I'm from the future...
  • 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 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by glesga_kiss (596639) on Sunday July 01, 2007 @05:46PM (#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"?

  • by Bacon Bits (926911) on Sunday July 01, 2007 @04:13PM (#19710095)
    I really wonder what we've missed simply because the evidence is long gone.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

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

  • 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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kebes (861706)
      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 t
  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Sunday July 01, 2007 @04:21PM (#19710153) Homepage Journal
    - 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.
    • 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.
    • Are you trying to tell me humans aren't the most important thing in the universe? Pish tosh!
      • by MightyYar (622222)
        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?
    • by Movi (1005625)
      > 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 m
    • by Colin Smith (2679)

      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 dissi

      • by QuantumG (50515)
        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.

        • by khallow (566160)

          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.

          If a genetic biologist gives that answer, then they are wrong. It's clear that humans have changed vastly from fish. Fish don't have the advanced characteristics that make us unusual. Eg, high intelligence, grasping hands, linguistic ability,

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by ChronosWS (706209)
            I'm no biologist, but it's not that quadratic configurations are superior to other forms, but rather than they are sufficiently adapted to allow propogation of the genes. It could be that there are several possible morphologies, but this one was the first one which evolved which was well-enough suited. WIth competition for resources, other kinds may have evolved later but could not compete. On a hypothetical alternate world, a different morphology may have been initially evolved which was suitable, and p
  • ...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.
  • A brief glimpse (Score:2, Interesting)

    by n3tcat (664243)
    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 so
    • by catbutt (469582)

      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.
  • 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.
    • by catbutt (469582)

      We can't even get off this damned rock yet
      Last I heard, we did make it to the adjacent rock not all that long ago.

      I doubt the article is seriously implying we should be planning for anything. But still, I think you a being presumptuois so think the death of the sun would terminate humankind (or our robotic decendents). That's an awful long time from now, we've come up with a lot of technology in the last hundred years, imagine what we can have in a billion or two.
      • by syousef (465911)
        I wasn't talking about a few day jaunt in a crummy tin can. I'm talking about being able to survive this planet becoming uninhabitable.

        The assumption that the rate of technological progress will continue exponentially is also flawed. There are physical limits and things improve in rapid spurts with lulls inbetween
    • "What is the point of this article? ... ....Interesting to ponder....."

      I think that's basically it. Something "Interesting to Ponder".
      It's a nice little mental exercise pondering the future of the universe, and contrasting that with our place in it now. That's all.
  • Copyright? (Score:5, Funny)

    by geoff lane (93738) on Sunday July 01, 2007 @04:45PM (#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.


  • 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?

  • by Ryunosuke (576755) on Sunday July 01, 2007 @04:57PM (#19710451) Homepage
    How can I tell if my computer is Y100B compliant? I want to be able to read about this on slashdot in 100B years
  • by MrCopilot (871878) on Sunday July 01, 2007 @05:08PM (#19710509) Homepage Journal
    1. Take polaroids.
    2. wait 100 billion years.
    3 profit.

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

    • It doesn't take 100 billion years to profit, if you take the right polaroids...speaking of which, this months payment is late, and you don't want MrsCopilot finding out, do you?
  • by mkcmkc (197982) on Sunday July 01, 2007 @05:11PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by QuoteMstr (55051)
      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 societ
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Kjella (173770)
        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 bo
        • by Thing 1 (178996)

          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.

          What about disasters? We should have abandoned NOLA, and didn't; perhaps the ancients did abandon the planet back when the extinction rock hit?

        • by ChronosWS (706209)
          The energy necessary to create those items required for an advanced civilization necessitate something better than steam boilers and windmills. It seems implausible to assume that a society would be able to skip the industrial revolution and jump directly to semiconductor-based electronics which don't use PCBs in their manufacture, and that in the process of doing so, they would also leave no clue whatsoever to their presence.

          Essentially, in order to continue this reasoning means you'd have to conclude the
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DirePickle (796986)
        Future societies wouldn't have much oil, coal, and gas to work with, perhaps, but a lot of other natural resources will be buried in our landfills.
      • by mkcmkc (197982)

        Any previous advanced civilization on earth would have depleted its mineral resources in its rise to high technology, just as we have.

        This is a good point. Consider though--if the civilization grew sufficiently advanced, perhaps they would gain the ability to erase signs of their existence with great ease. If they had that, plus a sort of cosmic Sierra Club mentality ("Take only pictures...") or Prime Directive mindset, perhaps they simply decided to leave the planet in the condition it would have been in had they not advanced.

        (Keeping simulism [simulism.org] in mind, I can't take either position very seriously.)

    • How do you know that there isn't an invisible pink unicorn in the room with you? Occam's Razor isn't THAT pitiful.
  • by CheeseburgerBrown (553703) on Sunday July 01, 2007 @05:59PM (#19710793) Homepage Journal
    Scifi short story that takes place at the heat-death of our universe [cheeseburgerbrown.com].

    Topical? Yes!

    Tipping encouraged. I'll be here all week.

  • Light is red shifted from distant sources because, currently, space is literally expanding as light is passing through it. A simplified version is that of the Doppler effect, which is when a source of radiation is moving away from the observer. Now, if the universe were to eventually settle down and stop expanding, or even start contracting again, wouldn't that preserve the radiation at whatever wavelength it is at? Or in the case of contracting, begin to blue shift it? I am no expert in physics, but i dabb
  • "um, hello? ... I'm standing right here!" - God.
  • We think we have it all figured out... dark matter, gravity, time and space. We even think the speed of light is the natural legal limit of all things in motion. In 100 billion years, if the human race hasn't fucked itself out of existence, I'm quite certain they will know much more than we do now. Discoveries will be made by that time which are simply out of our reach limited by our ignorance, understanding and perception of everything we know now right now. The statement that nobody will know how the
  • Makes me wonder (Score:2, Interesting)

    by localman (111171)
    How much information about our universe that was obvious to civilizations that rose and fell a few billion years ago is lost forever as well?
  • This question is not so much a cosmological one as a philosophical one. That far in the future, any intelligence could, if increasing its accuracy and precision model of the universe at the rate we have in our recorded history, find other evidence than any of which we conceive today to reconstruct the early conditions. Much like we have kinds of evidence now of which no one conceived in 1900.

    Another way to pop this conundrum is to ask whether anyone has proven that we will not be able to record our current
  • by TrnsltLife (779961) on Sunday July 01, 2007 @07:03PM (#19711169)
    What is interesting to me about this scenario is that a currently scientific idea will become unscientific over time. What is now a scientific theory, testable and supported by empirical data, will become nothing more than the ancestors *claims* of empirical data.

    Can the claims of the ancestors be trusted, when they suggest such preposterous experiential data as a "sky full of galaxies" and "background radiation"?

    If they can, then science is not the only valid way to learn about the universe. We can also learn from the experiences of those who came before us, even if we cannot experience the same thing they did.

    Science is a useful way to pursue truth, but it is not the only way. I think people need to see that, and this is a good example of how that is true.
  • If the universe expands so much that information about the early days is lost in one way or another, then won't that information be destroyed? Isn't it impossible for information to be destroyed? Isn't information eternal?

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