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Universe Closer To Heat Death Than Once Thought 237

Posted by Soulskill
from the we're-doomed dept.
TapeCutter writes "In a paper soon to be published (PDF) in the Astrophysical Journal, Australian researchers have estimated the entropy of the universe is about 30 times higher than previous estimates. According to their research, super-massive black holes 'are the largest contributor to the entropy of the observable universe, contributing at least an order of magnitude more entropy than previously estimated.' For those of us who like their science in the form of a car analogy, Dr. Lineweaver compared their results to a car's gas tank. He states, 'It's a bit like looking at your gas gauge and saying "I thought I had half a gas tank, but I only have a quarter of a tank."'" Fortunately, that quarter of a tank will still get us as far as we need to go and then some.
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Universe Closer To Heat Death Than Once Thought

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  • OMG!!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by click2005 (921437) * on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:38AM (#30904024)

    So as well as peak oil now we have to worry about peak universe?

  • by Angst Badger (8636) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:42AM (#30904082)

    So how much entropy does the fact that this story is a duplicate add to the universe?

  • by neurogeneticist (1631367) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:42AM (#30904094)
    So is this 30x higher than the 100x higher that was reported here on Slashdot a few months ago? http://science.slashdot.org/story/09/10/06/1641232/Universe-Has-100x-More-Entropy-Than-We-Thought [slashdot.org]
  • Not so sure... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Penguinisto (415985) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:45AM (#30904142) Journal

    ...given the not-quite-set-in-concrete nature of theoretical physics, string theory, and especially M-theory (...don't like this universe? we got more!), I don't think I'm going to sell the house and walk around in animal skins just yet.

    (definitely not saying that entropy itself doesn't exist - that much has been proven. OTOH, I suspect there's a whole lot more going on out there/here/everywhere that we simply do not know about yet, eh?)

    Besides, the universe had damned well better not die - at least not until I get my flying car, copy of Duke Nuken' Forever (running on HURD), and an army of Linux fembots with a penchant for evil, damnit!

    • Besides, the universe had damned well better not die - at least not until I get my flying car, copy of Duke Nuken' Forever (running on HURD), and an army of Linux fembots with a penchant for evil, damnit!

      Jump into a singularity, then you can have it all!

    • by geekmux (1040042)

      ...given the not-quite-set-in-concrete nature of theoretical physics, string theory, and especially M-theory (...don't like this universe? we got more!), I don't think I'm going to sell the house and walk around in animal skins just yet.

      I agree. Given the number of times the word "theory" is used, I'm leaning more towards questioning any "facts" here...Just sayin'.

      I believe there's a theory that states the true definition of theory as "guesstimate", but don't quote me on that.

  • Ah well, in a few decades we'll have the technological singularity and the entity resulting of that will be so smart that not only it'll exist out of the entire universe, but it'll also prevent its death or make sure its death will result in a new Big Bang!

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      It may be that all the black holes collapse on each other resulting in another big bang. What is causing the expansion of the universe may be that the universe is round in some unseen dimention, and it's actully gravity pulling it apart.

    • by Smallpond (221300)

      Death is a misnomer. Physical processes will be different and much slower as entropy increases, but there is no hard limit which is ever reached. In 30 billion years the descendants of humans might have a million year lifespan which seems to them to be the same length as ours does to us. They just have less available free energy. The beings that lived a few seconds after the big bang had whole civilizations which lasted microseconds.

  • by Steve Baker (3504) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:50AM (#30904230) Homepage

    > Fortunately, that quarter of a tank will still get us as far as we need to go and then some.

    And where is it that we're going?

  • by plover (150551) * on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:53AM (#30904274) Homepage Journal

    Does it bother anyone else that a guy named "Lineweaver" is making a car analogy that doesn't involve alcohol?

  • by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918@g m a i l .com> on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:55AM (#30904308)

    Fortunately, that quarter of a tank will still get us as far as we need to go and then some.

    Yes, fortunately for us, maybe... but what about our children's children's children's ... (* 10^80) children? Won't someone please think of them?!?!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by iggymanz (596061)

      you gotta be kidding, in less than half a billion years the expansion of the sun will make life impossible on earth, the oceans will boil away. Ironic that the time scale to attain life with civilization to evolve on a place like earth is almost on the order of how long a sun makes life possible before it roasts the life incubator. Maybe intelligent life is possible on a place like oceans of moons of jupiter, they might have longer.

      If you think we'll go somewhere else, that's very optimistic considering

  • Oh noes! (Score:5, Funny)

    by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:55AM (#30904310)
    You mean we may never make it to:

    - seeing a computer which can run Crysis?
    - Duke Nukem: Forever release date?
    - Hurd 1.0?
    - kdawson leaving a story alone and publishing something accurate?

    :-O
  • by Viol8 (599362) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:56AM (#30904328)

    Just because the laws of physics IN THIS UNIVERSE prevent that doesn't mean it can't happen since by definition the low entropy state the universe started in was created (in some form) by alternative laws of physics possibly outside this universe since the laws we know didn't exist at that point.

    There's no reason why these alternative physical laws couldn't suddenly kick back in when the universe reaches a certain entropy state and start to reverse the whole process back to zero. Some people would say time would then be going in reverse but this doesn't need to be the case.

      • by cowscows (103644)

        That's a good story, but it provides absolutely zero insight into the questions that the parent post asked.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sockatume (732728)

      Unfortunately completely different laws of physics are no more conducive to human survival than heat death is.

    • by mdm-adph (1030332)

      When someone says "in this universe/reality," I'm always reminded of http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=1595 [smbc-comics.com]

    • IANAP, but it seems to me that there may be aspects to physics at work at the 'universe' level that we just don't have the ability to observe, let alone analyze and test. Our knowledge of the physical universe is so small, and our ability to model and test physical properties is so limited, I think that most theories that try to explain phenomena outside/beyond the level of a planetary system are not much more than well-reasoned extrapolated estimates. This why we have revelations like this that the math do
      • Yeah I know I'm replying to myself, but I just figured out how to expand my analogy and make it more clear.

        What if the universe right now is like water, and everything in behaves consistently for the state, but what if some 'universal' threshold is passed, and the universe 'freezes'? The 'frozen' universe would be physically consistent as well, but in a completely different way. However, it's impossible to know how, because we can't 'freeze' the universe ourselves and observe the difference.
        • but what if some 'universal' threshold is passed, and the universe 'freezes'? The 'frozen' universe would be physically consistent as well, but in a completely different way

          This, BTW, is how physicists describe what happened after The Big Bang when the One Universal Physical Force began to split into strong, weak, electromagnetic & gravitational. Fudd's second law of opposition, I belive.
  • So the Universe only has 100 trillion more years before it is all sucked into a massive uber black hole. And then, one big void. And then, the next big bang, and it all starts over again. We're actually on iteration number 42 of an infinite loop.
    • by Dr. Evil (3501) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @12:04PM (#30905448)

      So on the previous iteration, a man named, coincidentally "Douglas Adams", in a language totally unrelated to but oddly identical to English, wrote a series of books where he concluded that the answer to life, the universe and everything was 41?

    • read "The Last Question" by Isaac Asimov He wrote: This is by far my favorite story of all those I have written. After all, I undertook to tell several trillion years of human history in the space of a short story and I leave it to you as to how well I succeeded. I also undertook another task, but I won't tell you what that was lest l spoil the story for you. It is a curious fact that innumerable readers have asked me if I wrote this story. They seem never to remember the title of the story or (for sure)
  • no problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ArcherB (796902) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:59AM (#30904388) Journal

    Considering that red dwarfs are expected to last trillions of years (no red dwarf has ever died. The universe is too young), we just need to move to a planet around one of them, assuming they have habitable planets.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "(no red dwarf has ever died."

      How about the BBC comedy series with Craig Charles and Chris Barrie?

      • by tmosley (996283)
        It lives on in our hearts, and on our pirated DVD collections.
      • It recently had a new miniseries produced by Dave TV. It's only dead in the sense that the rotting corpse of a zombie is dead.
  • as far as we need to go and then some.

    You're saying that now. :-P

  • by rubycodez (864176) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @11:00AM (#30904412)

    Star formation is believed to end about 10^14 years from now, the total entropy of universe only affects events after that. Not a worry. If protons decay with 10^32 year half-life, then practically all nucleons decay after 10^40 years, which leaves all black holes to evaporate after about 10^99 years.

    If protons don't decay as we suspect, then universe slowly tunnels to iron-56, (light nuclei via fusion and heavier via fission) in about 10^1500 years, which coalesce into black holes or neutron stars in about 10^10^76 years (yup, double exponent).

    So quite frankly, this bit about more entropy means little for life as we know it, though if life can arise by some heat-engine powered means (due to temperature differences only). still the time scales are staggering.

    but all mute if Big Rip is possible, we might only have 22 billion years left!:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Rip [wikipedia.org]

    • We'll just adapt.

      I mean time goes slower when you're closer to a black hole, amiright?

      (in theory)

      • by rubycodez (864176)

        can't adapt when there is no way at all to do work, and moreover no way to store information. Pud should make website FuckedUniverse, that's what it will be

    • I liked the post above a lot.

      Heat death arguments are all about the laws of thermodynamics and there are probably three good criticisms.

      the experimental basis last i looked was some system in equillibrium with a container around it and instrumentation outside the container. so in the heat death argument there is an implication that the universe is in equillibrium and the idea of a container and an observer outside the universe is a meaniful concept. To be clear, I am not particularly looking here at somet

      • Re:heat death (Score:4, Informative)

        by khallow (566160) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @12:41PM (#30906066)
        "The universe is a machine." What does that mean? That the universe is deterministic? There may well be some sort of as yet, undiscovered observer (the unobserved observer?) for which the universe is indeed wholly deterministic.

        emperically, thermodynamics is fundamentally wrong. consider events around the end of the 19th century. thermodynamics was around. the equations were established. in fact, there was, based on a flakey idea that physics was finite, the thought that we knew everything. There were a few unimportant oddities. One of them was radioactivity. so the thermo equations on the blackboard got rewritten. right at that point, thermodynamics did not hold. so what does this say about the fundamental nature of the universe?

        The only thing that thermodynamics can't explain is why aren't we already at maximum entropy? Everything else that we know of (such as radioactivity) is fully consistent with thermodynamics.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by FooAtWFU (699187)

          The new hot theoretical speculations hold that gravity is a thermodynamic effect too, not a regular force. This dude explains. [scientificblogging.com]

          Still highly speculative, mind you, but definitely hot stuff.

        • by astar (203020)

          as far as "machine", "reductionist" might be more useful if you know a bit

          on what thermo explains, you miss the point that 19ty century thermodynamics did not explain the universe and while very radically I do not expect that kind of truth from science, the possibility that for humans, fundamental science truths change says something about the universe that is in conflict with thermodynamics. the question might be approached from say objective truth, espistomology, or what I like, the existence of creativ

      • by rubycodez (864176)

        actually, thermodynamics just was expanded to include work by radiation, work by changing quantum energy level, and also information theory. Heat death of universe refers to inability to do meaningful work over any non-quantum time period.

        • by astar (203020)

          hmm, nice response

          just talking, suppose i laborously create some order and stick in an out of the way place. presumedly there would necessarily be a material substrata. if we do not think protons decay, the order might be around for even the time scales under consideration. then at any point, the order could be used to do work, then the universe up to that point has not reached heat death

          also, heat death assumes I think physics is finite. emperically, the detailed claims of finite have not held up. and

      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        emperically, thermodynamics is fundamentally wrong.

        Why do people say dumb shit like this? There's probably nothing more empirically right.

    • ...but all mute if Big Rip is possible, we might only have 22 billion years left!

      Er, from Big Bang to Big Rip?

      Cue sexual innuendo and large space fart jokes in 3...2...

    • by dylan_- (1661) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @12:14PM (#30905622) Homepage

      If protons don't decay as we suspect, then universe slowly tunnels to iron-56, (light nuclei via fusion and heavier via fission) in about 10^1500 years, which coalesce into black holes or neutron stars in about 10^10^76 years (yup, double exponent).

      10^640 years should be enough for anyone.

    • Moot.
    • The Big Rip sounds like it doesn't pass the sniff test... the idea that matter/energy needs to relate by weak/strong force interaction to other matter/energy or IT WILL EXPLODE LOLOLOL. I just don't buy it. Matter is self-contained. The gravity of the moon doesn't come from the earth, and the gravity of the earth doesn't come from the sun. The relationship isn't some kind of inherited cascade. The implied units of relationship don't make any sense to me either... so galaxies have to be in interaction range
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by mdwstmusik (853733)

      Only 22 billion years left? Nobody panic! ...We still have time to exit the Universe in a "disorderly" manner.

  • The Lone Power must be closer to winning than we thought. We need Nita and Kit.
  • after all taxing energy consumption works so well in reducing "heat death" here on planet earth
  • He states, 'It's a bit like looking at your gas gauge and saying "I thought I had half a gas tank, but I only have a quarter of a tank."'

    Yes, that's *exactly* what it is like. (eyeroll)

    You know, not everything in science needs to or should be translated into every day terms.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Locke2005 (849178)
      You know, not everything in science needs to or should be translated into every day terms.

      I'm not clear on what you mean by this... can you please explain it in terms of a car analogy?
      • Re:Oh noes! (Score:4, Funny)

        by fred fleenblat (463628) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @03:05PM (#30908242) Homepage

        It's like when you have a car, but the car is only useful for driving around in, not so much for explaining to people how you got there, and why you're naked and covered in potato peels, and why there are 17 empty cans of beer on the passenger seat, and why an alien baby is breaking out through your stomach and ellen riply is too busy fighting off the terminator from the future so she can't help you, but "new spock" is speaking in some weird irish accent for no apparent reason. We've all been there.

  • I have a few problems with this post.
    1) It's a dupe.
    2) The article it refers to hasn't been published/peer reviewed yet.
    3) Finding out we have 350 quadrillion years to go instead of 700 quadrillion years, is utterly meaningless at this point, since estimates that far wide and ranging will doubtless change a LOT in the X million years it will be before it becomes even remotely meaningful to human science.

    Our ignorance about super massive black holes, and the number of them in the universe, already set the er

  • We must do something about this!!! I know, lets start a Cosmic Credit fund to save the universe!
  • by Rockoon (1252108) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @11:23AM (#30904798)
    Singularities are not a requirement of black holes. Until about 25 years ago, the entire universe was theorized to maybe have the critical density necessary to be a black hole itself (with an inevitable "big crunch" producing a singularity in the very distance future), and obviously the universe isnt a singularity right now.

    Black holes can contain lots of usable energy, for those that might be in the black holes.
    • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @03:09PM (#30908296)

      Black holes can contain lots of usable energy, for those that might be in the black holes.

      No, there's a large amount of energy inside, but it's all in the form of a high temperature, and there's no colder heat reservoir available to anyone down there that would try to extract useful work from it. (Since nothing outside the singularity is reachable once you're there.) Useful work could be extracted from outside the hole by letting stuff fall in, like the way a hydroelectric generator works, but not if there's nothing outside left to fall in.

      There's an asymptotic limit to the universe's entropy that is approached but not necessarily reached, where everything would have fallen into one massive hole, free to explore an immensely large number of quantum states available to it at its high temperature. When you fall in your mass contributes to the number of states (and the temperature). The entropy rises with the logarithm of the number of states. A black hole singularity is postulated as being some single particle with a complicated wave function composed of a large number of available component states.

  • by Kirin Fenrir (1001780) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @11:25AM (#30904826)
    Jack: "The fact is that the universe is going to stop expanding and it is going to collapse in on itself. We've got to do something before it's too late!"

    Patrick: "How much time do we have left?"

    Jack: "Sixty trillion years, seventy at the most."

    Patrick: "Oh, no."
  • The question is, if our tank is 95% empty, would the speed increase because the black holes become greedy, or decrease because what's in between is too far away?
  • Fortunately, that quarter of a tank will still get us as far as we need to go and then some.

    And just how far is it that we need to go?

    I understand that the universe will out-live me by several orders of magnitude... And my children... And my children's children... Etc...

    I understand that the Earth will be consumed by our sun long before the universe dies...

    But I'm just wondering what "as far as we need to go" means...

  • by JustNiz (692889)

    Warming isn't just global, its universal!

  • we're all going to end up as cosmic farts.
  • No Problem (Score:3, Funny)

    by sunspot42 (455706) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:09PM (#30907364)

    We'll just have the Logopolitans open a charged vacuum emboitment to E-Space. Entropy problem solved!

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:33PM (#30907696) Homepage

    And just how far is that?

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