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The Far Future of Our Solar System 122

Posted by Soulskill
from the entropy's-long-con dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Sure, the Universe is expanding, the galaxies are accelerating away from one another, and it's looking more and more like they'll never re-collapse. The timeline of the far future looks pretty grim on large scales. But what's to come of our Solar System: of the Earth, our Moon and our Sun? This tour of the far future of the Solar System, scaling the timescales to the Big Bang being '1 Universe year' ago, puts it all in perspective."
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The Far Future of Our Solar System

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Somebody turns off the simulator?

  • Starts with a bang (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Adam Colley (3026155) <`eb.opuk' `ta' `gom'> on Saturday January 04, 2014 @06:17PM (#45867223)

    Aye, his blog is pretty damn excellent.

    http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/ [scienceblogs.com]

    Unfortunately after a billion years or so there'll be no humans left to see it, hopefully at some point we'll have moved some of our eggs elsewhere, perhaps with generation ships if Einstein was right and there's no other possibilities...

    • by koan (80826) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @06:34PM (#45867297)

      Over that time scale genetic drift alone would mean we wouldn't see them as human.

      • sure we will, because somebody will figure out how to clone a human, then the super-wealthy will decide they don't need the rest of us when heading out into space, and rely on cloning instead.

        • by CalzKwon (2892541)

          Several computer systems are getting toward it.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Cloning isn't viable over the long term, even if you made it so, that implies a stagnant society.

          Let me put that last bit to you like this, if you're super wealthy and going to space are you going to take all the scumbags hanging out on the street with you?

          I think not.

          • Long term (Score:2, Interesting)

            by fyngyrz (762201)

            Cloning isn't viable over the long term, even if you made it so, that implies a stagnant society.

            Let's make some different, very likely, assumptions. Today's nascent cloning technology is unlikely to even slightly resemble that of the future; today's human (and pet) genome, with all of its flaws, is unlikely to resemble that of the future; We'll no longer be farming animals for food, perhaps not even vegetables; AI will be here, as will robotics without AI (service class machinery); planets orbiting stars

    • by gmuslera (3436) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @08:34PM (#45867823) Homepage Journal

      There have been hominids for 5m years, proper humans for only 200k years, civilization for just 20k years, and in 100 years we invented a lot of things (from nukes to biological agents) that could end mankind any day, while going rampant sabotaging the earth ecosystem... and things keeps accelerating. What make you think that will be humans around in not in 1 billon nor 1 millon, but only 10k years in the future being very generous?

      Yes, laying eggs somewhere else could improve the chances, self-sustaining space colonies is the way to try it more than generation ships, if any of them is ever possible. But that don't have a chance to happen with current culture where profit in the present is more important than having a future.

      To put an example, an asteroid impacted earth 2 days ago that wasn't detected till that moment [slate.com], how much you think is "invested" on mapping any potential space threats compared with, i.e. spying on ourselves, bailing out banks or even denying climate change [wired.co.uk]? When the federal government had budget problems one of the first victims was the NASA program to detect space debris [universetoday.com] (a good example of a surveillance system that worth it), while the pentagon wasted 5.5billons the night before the shutdown [cnbc.com] (if we are talking about our survival, that was a waste), And always will be an "emergency" that will divert efforts and attention to something else, even if we have to create it. Unless we figure out a practical, safe way to travel (far) into the future (yes, we could done it doing a relativistic speed trip, or some suspended animation process could be developed, but nothing practical and for masses yet) we should not worry about what will happen in a millon years, is just too out of the reach of mankind.

      • by BringsApples (3418089) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @10:32PM (#45868291)
        I think you're right on, but I think saying that man will be around for another 10k years is not generous, but silly. No other species that we know of has ever been as selfish, and foolish as mankind. Hell, crocodiles have been here for 200 million years, and they never bothered to invent a lay-z-boy recliner, a blender, or even TV! And if you look around the planet at the humans that are here and happy, they have learned to live with Nature, and not against it, as mankind has for the last 200 years or so.

        It does seem that Nature has some intelligent design to it, that sort of self-repairs when things get out of whack, and when species try to play god, they self-destruct. There does seem to be a small push toward a more Natural living these days, despite being laughed at by the masses. An interesting book that I found on this subject is called "Darwin's Unfinished Business" by Simon G. Powell. He also has some interesting youtube videos. Here's one based on the book that I just mentioned:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ff1Z8nGGebs [youtube.com]

        I'm not trying to advertize, but bring to light a new way to approach Nature - with respect. And you seem like a fit personality.
        • > No other species that we know of has ever been as selfish, and foolish as mankind.

          Have you gotten to know any other species well? Altruism is a very sophisticated behavior. So greed is pretty much built-in, along with deceit, rape, and genocide. Foolishness.... you have to have pretty sophisticated behavior and intellect before you even have anything to acuse of oolishness.

          • Have you gotten to know any other species well?

            Yes.

            Altruism is a very sophisticated behavior. So greed is pretty much built-in, along with deceit, rape, and genocide.

            I think you have these backwards. Altruism is a simple matter of not being selfish, and even dogs do it. [youtube.com] I feel that is built in. Of course greed, deceit, rape and genocide (hell you forgot to mention murder) are a part of nature, but they're things that, when viewed from a humane perspective (the one with altruism built-in), are looked down upon as barbaric, or things that are done by those with less evolution.

            But you're taking what I said out of context. The next time you see or hear of anything

            • The next time you see or hear of anything except for mankind knowingly ruining the entire planet for it's own personal and very temporary gain, hit me up and I'll buy you a drink.

              How about this? http://science.slashdot.org/story/14/01/04/2057206/the-far-future-of-our-solar-system [slashdot.org]

              I didn't have to go very far, either. This is an elegant summary of what humans have discovered (in only a few hundred years) about the development and likely future of the observable universe. It is based on millions of person hours of effort directed at discovering how things work. It is elegant and beautiful. The human impulse to learn that produces things like this also produces the inventions tha

              • The next time you see or hear of anything except for mankind knowingly ruining the entire planet for it's own personal and very temporary gain, hit me up and I'll buy you a drink.

                How about this? http://science.slashdot.org/story/14/01/04/2057206/the-far-future-of-our-solar-system [slashdot.org] [slashdot.org]

                Say what? Maybe I worded what I said in a shotty way, let me try to re-word it: The next time you find a species, other than humans, in an act of knowingly ruining the entire planet for it's own personal and very temporary gain, hit me up and I'll buy you a drink.

                You seem overly smitten by the "natural" world, and every species except for Man.

                I know, I'm told that a good bit here on slashdot. Ultimately it's due to my shotty way of communicating. Seriously, I need to work on it, but it's partially due to my trying to do multiple things, while posting to slashdot. The reason that I

            • Dogs are quite sophisticated, and they've also been strongly trained by humans. Beetles, bacteria, worms, etc. are not, and they certainly outmass us. Altruism, as opposed to greed, is admittedly a fascinating biological and psychological subject, and I may have oversimplified the needs to show genuine altruism. But greed? Greed is built right into the concept of "desire", and applies to the desires for territory, food, and sex. The idea that "desire" is good, while "greed" is not, for example, is core to m

              • Of course greed, deceit, rape and genocide (hell you forgot to mention murder) are a part of nature, but they're things that, when viewed from a humane perspective (the one with altruism built-in), are looked down upon as barbaric, or things that are done by those with less evolution.

                The idea that this is a matter of "level of evolution" is as silly as as calling rich people "more evolved" than poor people.

                Well, that's not fair. I feel that you took what I said out of context. Murder is something that has to be done, period. I "murder" a plant to eat it. But what to do? This is a limitation of our language. You cannot say, "Ohh BringsApples says that murdering is ok!" In this way, I feel that you are rearranging the definition of "greed" to be different than how I was using it, and also in this way, I cannot agree that it's built into the frame of humanity. Humans do not have to be greedy, it's a choi

                • > Well, that's not fair. I feel that you took what I said out of context. Murder is something that has to be done, period. I "murder" a plant to eat it. But what to do? This is a limitation of our language

                  No, that's a failure to use thelanguage. "Murder" has a number of specific legal, historical, and common linguistic meanings.

                  > Humans do not have to be greedy

                  Nor do they "have" to obey the laws of gravity nor their own hormones. With effort they can be overwhelmed, quie successfully. But the basic d

        • by Mathinker (909784)

          And if you look around the planet at the humans that are here and happy, they have learned to live with Nature, and not against it, as mankind has for the last 200 years or so.

          This myth, again? Humans in the middle ages were somehow happier than we are today? Did you ever learn any history? And even without thinking about all of the cruelty that people imposed on each other (let's assume that that hasn't changed since the middle ages), for most of human history one out of every two children (if not more) di

      • No, it starts with a song.

        Just re... member that you're standing on a planet that's evolving...

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWVshkVF0SY [youtube.com]

      • by Tom (822)

        Yes, laying eggs somewhere else could improve the chances, self-sustaining space colonies is the way to try it more than generation ships, if any of them is ever possible. But that don't have a chance to happen with current culture where profit in the present is more important than having a future.

        It really is very simple. If you sum up everything we know about human history and psychology, there is one basic conclusion and two basic paths we can take.

        The basic assumption is that evolution has resulted in a species that prioritises short-term survival over long-term progress and reacts more strongly to outside dangers than to internal abstract goals.

        The two basic paths we can take are a) find a way to re-program our minds, a proposal of uncertain results as we are talking about a self-modifying progr

        • by gmuslera (3436)

          We should forget about the emergence of aggresive outsiders, if the rules of the universe are as they seem so far contact between civilizations of different stellar systems is very improbable. We don't need an outside danger when we have so much inside dangers that could wipe us out, the problem is reacting when that insider danger is in a position of power, either military or culturally. But as an incoming apocalypse will be an excellent opportunity to make profit (how much people could pay to live a bit m

          • by Tom (822)

            Apparently I wasn't clear. An outside, alien danger is essential in order to trigger the "us vs. them" instinct we humans all have. We are social animals that instinctively group up in the face of danger. That is why an outside danger would forge us together while inside dangers just split us further apart.

            • by gmuslera (3436)
              The problem is that will be no "them", traveling between star systems is pretty expensive if ever possible (and the odds of having someone close enough capable of making it possible are very very low). And there is no "them" when the threat is an asteroid, a disease, or a supervolcano. We have our own "us vs them", through all the history we basically have not recognized as humans beings (or that deserved human rights, ask the NSA) people with different language, skin color, religions, countries and so on.
              • by Tom (822)

                I agree that an interstellar war is unlikely to a) happen and b) last very long. In all likelihood, if we meet any aliens out there, either they or we will be so technologically advanced over the other that you wouldn't call it a battle - much like a modern day army with air support and tanks meeting a group of stone-age hunters with axes.

                But from a philosophical point of view, the "us vs. them" requires an intelligent, recognizable "other group". A volcano isn't. An alien species is. There's this thing cal

      • > how much you think is "invested" on mapping any potential space threats compared with, i.e. spying on ourselves

        Which do you think is a more realistic threat, being obliterated by an asteroid or being attacked by other humans?

        • by gmuslera (3436)
          As individual, being attacked by other humans. As specie, being obliterated by an asteroid. Dinosaurs killed other dinosaurs all the time, but what killed all of their kind was an asteroid. And we have over them the advantage that we could still do something about it, if we prepare for that with enough time. Don't bet everything on the present, try to have a future.
    • Perhaps somebody can enlighten me on this:

      If the universe is expanding, does that actually mean that the universe has a border? Or does it mean that the universe is infinite, but its coordinate system (so to speak) is expanding?

      • (and if it has no border and is infinite, then how did the universe pop into existence during the big bang?)

      • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @11:27PM (#45868499)

        Here you go: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metric_expansion_of_space#What_space_is_the_universe_expanding_into.3F [wikipedia.org]

        It's kinda sorta expanding into itself . . .

        If you smoke some weed, listen to an old "Yes" album from the 70's and do some whippets, you understand it all and it becomes really clear, but you forget again when the whippets wear off.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        That's a answer we don't know, and might never. The actual "edge" is probably beyond our light cone, which means it's further away than the light can get to us. As for your question below, during the beginning of the universe it expanded faster than light, so the information from the "edge" is beyond our line.

        Some theories have our universe is just one of many, along interconnecting "branches" or something. So our spacetime, with it's physical laws, is expanding into the greater multiverse space, alo
      • by pantaril (1624521)

        If the universe is expanding, does that actually mean that the universe has a border? Or does it mean that the universe is infinite, but its coordinate system (so to speak) is expanding?

        Most astrophysics think that universe has no border like a surface of the sphere has no border. Space-time of the universe is similar but has one more dimension so imagine it like some kind of inflating hypersphere. The exact geometry is not clear so it's probably not hypersphere but something more fancy, perhaps dodecahedron [wikipedia.org]

        • Ok, but what will happen at the edges of the dodecahedron?
          Will there be some sort of singularity?

          A smooth shape would seem more logical to me, but then again, I seem to remember that physicists have determined that the shape of the universe is 100% "flat", so that would be a contradiction (unless the universe is really flat and infinite).

          • by pantaril (1624521)

            That's good question and i don't know the answer. Maybe the space-time would be more bent on the edges resulting in some kind of anomally in our 3d space, maybe the edges would be only smoothly bent and the scale would be so large that we wouldn't notice anything.

            The main problem is that we don't know the size of the whole universe and we don't know where exactly we are in it.

            You are right that physicists determined that our universe is either 100% flat or very slightly positively bent. But again, it's hard

  • If only for the fact it sounds delicious.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Crunch [wikipedia.org]

    • With all the latest craze about nerds, I really wonder why there's no breakfast cereal by that name yet.

      • by koan (80826)

        (Queue repetitive commercial music) BIG CRUNCH *chorus* it's gonna squash your brain* BIG CRUNCH "Start your morning as a singularity"

  • I need a unicorn chaser!

    (But that was pretty awesome.)

  • I am sure we will go the way of the neanderthals and the denisovans and the whole bunch of bipeds in our region of the evolutionary tree. I suspect that there may be other beings that use their brains for more than just moving around in earths future. Perhaps we may be able to upload and download our consciousness and employ various new senses.
    • by koan (80826)

      Why not Johnny Depp did.

    • If neoteny provides any clues "homo animus" or the anime man may be our likely future.

      humans a few million years down the line will be looking like eurasian anime characters
      with cuteness not intelligence the most dominating feature although as they say looks
      can be deceiving.

      The human race will be okay...for now.
       

      • humans a few million years down the line will be looking like eurasian anime characters with cuteness not intelligence the most dominating feature

        That or the Eloi from The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.

        • AD has also been superceded by CE (common era). Neanderthals were around for a paltry million years. The thought process in producing this drivel I am spouting here does not really require smell, taste or touch. I have to see and try to hear what I am saying.
  • by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @07:21PM (#45867517) Homepage Journal
    I made an edit a while back in reference to the "4 billion year mark", because it was inaccurate, even via the cite it provides:

    "Median point by which the Andromeda Galaxy will have collided with the Milky Way, which will thereafter merge to form a galaxy dubbed "Milkomeda".[46] The Solar System is expected to be relatively unaffected by this collision.[47] "

    If you actually look at the citation (originally, the previous one had something to do with collisions of clouds and particles) at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/science/milky-way-collide.html [nasa.gov], it DOES NOT SAY that it will be "relatively unaffected". To Quote:

    "Although the galaxies will plow into each other, stars inside each galaxy are so far apart that they will not collide with other stars during the encounter. However, the stars will be thrown into different orbits around the new galactic center. Simulations show that our solar system will probably be tossed much farther from the galactic core than it is today. To make matters more complicated, M31's small companion, the Triangulum galaxy, M33, will join in the collision and perhaps later merge with the M31/Milky Way pair. There is a small chance that M33 will hit the Milky Way first."

    While the sum contents of mass *may* be the same within our solar system, everything will be jumbled pretty good to where it won't even kind of look the same.

    Take this timeline with a grain of salt. It is pretty apparent the moderators do little in terms of verification
    • That link doesn't say any of the things you think it says. It's talking about stars in their relative orbits to each other. No party of your quote mentions the contents of the solar system.
      • That link doesn't say any of the things you think it says. It's talking about stars in their relative orbits to each other. No party of your quote mentions the contents of the solar system.

        Well, if it doesn't mention it, it's still correct. The sun will go red giant around the time of the merger -- Some say 5 billion, some estimates say 4 or a bit less. Simulations I've seen put our Earth at at least 50% chance to be thrown clear out of the galaxy. Ever run a gravitational sim? Gravity slings a lot of approach trajectories out beyond the system, never to return. Jumble up things, and give it a bit of time, sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

    • by dryeo (100693)

      My understanding is that when Andromeda merges it will trigger a huge amount of star formation due to the shock waves in the interstellar medium which will increase the radiation in the galaxy due to many Blue giants and the resulting supernovas.
      Long before that (500 million+ years) the Sun is going to get too hot for the Earth to have oceans and advanced (any?) life. Of course we could move the Earth or mankind could migrate elsewhere and there is even a chance of a close encounter with another star pertur

  • If this is the case why are the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies approaching each other? Shouldn't the space between them be increasing rather than decreasing? Does this present any contradiction?
  • What's with the ice age it talks about? I thought the sun will gradually get warmer (before it bursts).

    • by dryeo (100693)

      The Sun is warming up very slowly relatively, perhaps causing the Earth to get a kelvin warmer every 10 million years. The exact amount is unsure but the heating itself is caused by the Sun getting denser as hydrogen is transmuted to helium. The figures I've seen vary from 500 million to 2 billion years before the oceans boil.

      • by Tablizer (95088)

        Okay, but it didn't say what caused the ice-age anywhere I could find. My best guess is that it's referring to natural climate cycles and that we will probably have at least one (more) ice-age before the sun bursts due to such natural cycles.

        • by dryeo (100693)

          I'm not an expert and my understanding is probably incomplete, what I do understand is that over the really long term the configuration of the continents has a large input to the climate. As the continents move around they affect the ocean currents, winds and amount of precipitation. Also as the continents rearrange mountains grow and get weathered down and the ocean changes in depth. All these have large affects on the global climate. Ocean currents sometimes transfer heat north and south, other times not.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Each unit volume of space-time must have a constant amount of zero-point energy (this is already known today even though the amount itself is not).
    Conservation of energy is probably the most basic law of physics (unfortunately most physicists are ignoring when it comes to expansion of universe).
    So unless we assume there is constant energy input to universe from outside (highly unlikely!) expansion must stop someday!

    Since dark energy driving the expansion, this reasoning implies amount of dark energy must be

  • Hawking radiation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Max Threshold (540114) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @08:36PM (#45867831)
    Hasn't it been shown that only the least massive black holes will evaporate from Hawking radiation? The radiation emitted by larger ones is less than the mass/energy they absorb from the CMB, so they will continue growing...
    • Re:Hawking radiation (Score:5, Informative)

      by mark_osmd (812581) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @08:54PM (#45867897)
      That's true right now, the 3K background is higher than the tiny temperature of the black holes. But the background temperature will get lower and lower as the universe expands, eventually it would get lower than the hawking temperature of even the largest black holes. At that point all black holes will be shrinking.
  • Can somebody explain why this stuff matters? I mean speculation without a chance of experimental verification?

    • by InfiniteLoopCounter (1355173) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @10:27PM (#45868267)

      Can somebody explain why this stuff matters? I mean speculation without a chance of experimental verification?

      Thinking about things -- why they happen, how they may happen -- in great detail without actually experiencing them is one aspect that makes us human beings. Thinking about the eventual fate of the universe and our current home is something that we should all do at some point.

      It also is several notches above the other rampant speculation without experimental verification here and lifts the profile of /. a bit from where you have to shovel down to the level sometimes.

      • by mapkinase (958129)

        >Thinking about the eventual fate of the universe and our current home is something that we should all do at some point.

        Valid point. Question: why does one need to make unverifiable extrapolations to do that?

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I guess that means we can't talk about sex in your case either?
  • According to the time line
    500,000[b] Earth will have likely been hit by a meteorite of roughly 1 km in diameter, assuming it cannot be averted.[15]

    [b] This represents the time by which the event will most probably have happened. It may occur randomly at any time from the present.

    [15] uses this as a reference http://www.nickbostrom.com/existential/risks.html [nickbostrom.com] "existential risks"
    Which states: There is a real but very small risk that we will be wiped out by the impact of an asteroid or comet
    This is in turn refe

  • The laws of nature are almost completely understood in a few, very important senses. We know that our Universe is about 13.8 billion years old, despite having human experiences and observations that range from only a few fractions of a second to a handful of years. Our investigations of the laws of nature today allow us to look back into the distant history of the Universe, and understand what it was like 13.8 billion years ago, and how that gave rise to our Universe today.

    We believe we know that stuff. Obviously we can't verify it experimentally.

  • though the time compression idea to make long timeframes a bit more comprehensible loses its usefulness with ludicrously long timeframes. By the author's own admission, at that point "the difference between “regular” years and Universe years isn’t so big". Chances are you won't find 10^140 much easier to grasp than 10^150.

    I'd like to see a logarithmic representation all the way out, sort of a temporal version of Powers of Ten [powersof10.com].

Man must shape his tools lest they shape him. -- Arthur R. Miller

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