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Space Science

Universe May Be Running Out of Time 343

RenHoek writes "With heat death, the big crunch and quite a few other nasty ways in which the universe could see its demise, we can now add "running out of time" to the list. A team of scientists came up with a new theory that would solve the problem of the elusive dark energy that seems to be accelerating the expansion of the universe. They figure that the universe is not speeding up but we are, in relation to the outer regions of space, slowing down. Tests with the upcoming Large Hadron Collider will give more insight if we're going to end up frozen in time."
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Universe May Be Running Out of Time

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  • last post! (Score:5, Funny)

    by yagu ( 721525 ) * <yayagu@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Friday December 21, 2007 @03:36PM (#21783006) Journal

    Ha, you only think this is offtopic!

    • Ms. Cartman: Doctor, did you find out what's wrong with him?
      Doctor: I'm afraid he's running out of time.
      Ms. Cartman: Why, what's wrong with him?
      Doctor: It's his time. It's running out.
      Ms. Cartman: What can we do?
      Doctor: Well, I suppose we can try a time transplant. I'll have to call a specialist.
    • by davidsyes ( 765062 ) on Friday December 21, 2007 @04:09PM (#21783532) Homepage Journal
      I think those guys have too much time on their hands... but that can be a topic for another... time...
  • Time ... (Score:5, Funny)

    by foobsr ( 693224 ) * on Friday December 21, 2007 @03:36PM (#21783008) Homepage Journal
    ... to book at Milliways !!!

  • ManBearPig! (Score:4, Funny)

    by stewbacca ( 1033764 ) on Friday December 21, 2007 @03:39PM (#21783058)
    Mr. Gore, have you been submitting stories to slashdot again?
  • So much to worry about. The collapsing universe. An asteroid striking Earth. Global climate change. Volcanoes that erupt and block the sun. Lnadslides and earthquakes causing devastating tsunamis.

    I need a beer.
  • by explosivejared ( 1186049 ) <hagan.jared @ g m a i l.com> on Friday December 21, 2007 @03:43PM (#21783114)
    "We believe that time emerged during the Big Bang, and if time can emerge, it can also disappear - that's just the reverse effect," he says.

    Of course it could also flip us all upside down and turn everything a light salmon color!

    Note to self: Patent method for garnering scientific celebrity. Come up with outlandish theory, then claim that LHC will move it to the mainstream.
    • If time emerged during the big bang, then wouldn't that mean that there was no "before" the big bang? So where did it come from?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by plague3106 ( 71849 )
        Come on, really now. It came from the Flying Spagetti Monster. Heathen.
      • If time emerged during the big bang, then wouldn't that mean that there was no "before" the big bang? So where did it come from?
        Before was 42x/0. It's it obvious?
  • by fifedrum ( 611338 ) on Friday December 21, 2007 @03:44PM (#21783132) Journal
    is this further evidence that we're approaching a black hole? The whole, unverse appears to be accelerating away from us in all directions thing?

    kinda freakin' me out here people, if time slows down too much, it'll be 2:45 Friday afternoon forever!
    • Nope, it's already 2:55 Friday afternoon. You can relax for now.
      • by mcmonkey ( 96054 )
        Yeah, but now it's 2:59! See, time is slowing!

        At this rate, we'll never get to go home :(
    • Would seem to be the opposite of a black hole. Of course, maybe BH's can slow the universe down.. hmm.

      More to the point.. would you rather it be 2:45 Friday afternoon forever or 8:30 AM Monday morning?
  • the title is misleading

    how many billions of years are we talking about?

    should we (with our tiny lifespans) care whether the universe flies apart into nothingness or crushes itself?

    dont we have more pressing issues as humanity to worry about (take a pick: global warming, george bush, global recession, peak oil)?
    • by foobsr ( 693224 )
      dont we have more pressing issues as humanity to worry about

      Perhaps there would be relief from the perceived pressure if humanity would overcome anthropocentrism on a much broader scale than already suggested by some, and maybe cosmology helps to attain that.

    • by Sciros ( 986030 )
      No problem, George Bush, much like the universe, is running out of time as well so we really only have 3 of those to worry about.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Silly person, this is all a result of George Bush's efforts to accelerate global warming by increasing the profits of his Big Oil buddies, by pushing to reach Peak Oil and cause a global recession!
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Lije Baley ( 88936 )
      Please explain to me the moral superiority of your concern for our children now vs. everyone's children billions of years from now? I believe that is the voice of your genes I hear, not the voice of reason.
  • by psbrogna ( 611644 ) on Friday December 21, 2007 @03:46PM (#21783164)
    I believe this announcement should be taken as a wake up call by the Duke Nukem Forever developers. I'm standing by to place my order while the cosmos collapses around me.
  • repeated below:

    "If that happens, then these kind of theories will move out of the realm of speculation and into the mainstream."

    There are a gazillion of these unsupported hunches out there, believe which ever one you want. Physics has become the domain of science fiction authors.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Thought1 ( 1132989 )
      Physics always has been the domain of sci-fi authors. How do you think we got most of our current theories? (:
    • There are a gazillion of these unsupported hunches out there, believe which ever one you want. Physics has become the domain of science fiction authors.
      it only requires one to replace or extend current theory. there needs to be evidence to support theories for them to do so and the predictive power of these theories is a big reason why one theory extends or takes over the work of another.
    • So, let me get this straight. A scientist proposes an admittedly unusual theory which will be falsifiable using the proper equipment, and that makes it equivalent to science fiction?

      Perhaps you need to educate yourself on what science, precisely, is. If this is a legitimate hypothesis with a legitimate experiment to test it, then there's absolutely nothing unscientific about it, whether you think it sounds outlandish or not.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Not exactly. There a a billion theories exactly like this one but different, but exactly the same. They are all waiting on the Hadron collider to provide proof of higher order dimensions and thus not disprove their theories that depend upon higher dimensions. It will not prove which one is correct.

        If you don't believe me subscribe to new scientist for a while. Every issue a new multi dimensional theory that could help to explain some feature of the universe but can only be proved/disproved at energies th
  • by gardyloo ( 512791 ) on Friday December 21, 2007 @03:46PM (#21783178)
    ... "Time Traveler's Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations"
  • If we're slowing down (even though time still SEEMS the same to us...) would that mean that we will actually have MORE time? (from a perspective of what our time originally was?)
  • And Bill Gates may be running out of money.
  • by Dareth ( 47614 ) on Friday December 21, 2007 @03:49PM (#21783228)
    Fear, long time (relative) slashdotter gets a girl, starts a family and then time stops!

    Great! Just Great!

    My daughter is due early May 2008... not sure what would be worse.. my wife stuck forever pregnant, baby (diapers), or her as a teenager!
  • Assuming a Platonistic perspective (that there is this "thing" out there called time), then we would never be able to observe time slowing down. The slow down would never affect us in the least. All chemical reactions, all of your neural activity... everything... would slow down at the same rate. That may have been a badly worded statement, or I'm taking too literal an interpretation of it.
  • A big stretch (Score:3, Interesting)

    by prelelat ( 201821 ) on Friday December 21, 2007 @03:57PM (#21783326)
    Maybe this isn't a sign that time is collapsing or that it will collapse at some point in the far off future. Maybe Space and time are being stretched. There may be finite amount of space and it keeps getting spread thinner, which could effect gravitational forces and then effect time. Somewhat how a black hole can slow time around it, maybe the spreading of the universe is in effect increasing the speed in the spread thin areas. Of course what does that mean when Space and time get spread to thin, so we get tears or does it collapse? Seems devastating either way.

    Then again I only took one entry level university class on the whole thing so I don't think that qualifies me. I just like to think of apposing theories :P
    • by Chemisor ( 97276 ) * on Friday December 21, 2007 @09:00PM (#21786850)
      I don't know why people come up with these ridiculous "dark energy" theories, when there is a perfectly simple explanation for the expansion of the universe: stars. Remember the traditional illustration of how matter curves space; place a heavy ball onto a sheet of fabric and a depression forms. If the sheet is finite and not fixed at the ends, the depression will "suck in" some of the sheet, reducing its area as seen from above. Likewise, a heavy star curves space around it and "sucks it in", making the universe a little smaller. As the star shines, matter is converted to energy in a fusion reaction. Because radiation is massless, it does not curve space. The star gets lighter, the curvature gets smaller, and the universe expands.

      On the other side of the balance are the black holes, which suck in energy and condense it into a singularity, which has mass. More light falls into the hole, the more massive the hole gets, the more space it sucks in, the more it shrinks the universe. At our current point in the cycle there are more stars than there are black holes, so the universe expands at an accelerating rate. As stars burn out and become black holes the expansion will slow and eventually reverse as all the radiation eventually finds its way back into a black hole. Black holes coalesce and the larger ones can explode, creating material for star formation, thus continuing the cycle. See? No mysterious dark energy is needed; only basic physics.
  • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 ) on Friday December 21, 2007 @03:58PM (#21783348)
    Cannot run out of time. There is infinite time. You are finite. Zathras is finite. This... is wrong tool. [rummaging] No, not good. Not good. No. No-- never use this!
  • by GuruBuckaroo ( 833982 ) on Friday December 21, 2007 @03:59PM (#21783366) Homepage
    Zathras: "Cannot run out of time. Time is infinite. You, are finite. Zathras if finite. This.... is wrong tool."
  • by springbox ( 853816 ) on Friday December 21, 2007 @04:01PM (#21783400)
    I always seem to read Large Hadron Collider as "Large Hardon Collider." Not sure how that's related to science.
    • by Empiric ( 675968 )
      Well, you could conjecture about the subjective qualia that would persist for an individual should time stop in various, er, "states"...
    • by ashitaka ( 27544 )
      Probably something to do with psychology...

      I think Freud had an opinion on this.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Woy ( 606550 )
      And to control it they are using the next version of Ubuntu, called Hairy Hardon.
  • From the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] linked in the post:

    As with previous particle accelerators, people both inside and outside the physics community have voiced concern that the LHC might trigger one of several theoretical disasters capable of destroying the Earth or even the entire Universe. This has raised controversy as to whether any such risks outweigh the potential benefits of constructing and operating the LHC.

    This reminds me that at the time of the first atomic bomb test, there was concern that it might ca

  • Failure of Context (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DynaSoar ( 714234 ) on Friday December 21, 2007 @04:04PM (#21783448) Journal
    Being "frozen in time" would require a privileged frame of reference from which to observe this. Relativity precludes such a thing.

    If time slows down, we slow down with it, and we don't notice because everything looks normal. This is precisely the gedankenexperiment of the moving train. If you can't handle the relativity, read some science fiction that uses it, such as Tau Zero (the ship can't stop accelerating and ends up crossing the entire universe and watching the big crunch and next big bang) or the Heechee stories (where the guy leaves the rest of his crew trapped around a black hole, and they're recovered decades later, havening spent weeks waiting).

    To have an absolutely 0 tau would require a completely flat universe. As long as any matter and/or energy (dark or light) exists, this is impossible. The rate may approach 0 but cannot achieve it. Thus, there will always be duration, and we will experience it just as we do now.

    Time could be speeding up and slowing down right now, like a lead foot motorist stuck in a traffic jam. We'd never notice because we're stuck in it, no matter what its rate is, like a passenger in said vehicle that can't see outside (minus the inertial effects, because we're talking the universe here, not a locally observable phenomenon).

    The same argument applies to "the universe is expanding". We couldn't detect that either, because we're embedded in space time. We'd expand too. All we can see is the supposed effects of previous expansion, that of Hubble red shift. Try the dots-on-the-balloon experiment. The dots get farther apart. But the distance between them as measured by the size of a dot remains constant.

    It's the same argument because time and space are integrated as space-time. It's essentially the inability to get outside a frame of reference known as "universe".

    Whenever I see one of these goofy assertion articles, I hope for a summary of the math. These goofy results must be arrived at due to an error in assumption. Such an error, if considered to be a valid point, may be just the error that prevents us from integrating gravity with the other forces, and so illuminating and fixing that error could be a major step in theoretical physics.
  • one that runs on both time and electricity, so as you slow down it charges the backup battery and you can keep going through the magic of hybrid synergy drive!
  • Did he set off a TIME DILATION FIELD around us?

    or did they star messing with the ANCIENT TIME-LOOP DEVICE again?

      Hmm... did McKay ever actually use a time dilation field? SG1 did on the replicator planet when the first human-forms were introduced, thanks to the Asgard... and then Carter did it again in the final episode of the series (time dilation field, blew up a star, tell me she's not the most dangerous woman in the history of sci-fi!), but I don't recall McKay ever doing one (doing one? initiating one? setting one off? How exactly *does* one state it when someone is responsible
    • Oh yeah, and FYI, remember the "time-loop" device wasn't meant to loop at all, that was just the side-effect of some bad engineering.

      Splitting hairs I suppose... if one can build a device to go back in time at all it's probably a little over-the-top to criticize if it doesn't work *quite* right!
  • We're moving out of the Slow Zone.

    If there was ever a SF plot device I wished was true, that's was it.

  • by Trub68 ( 1140871 ) on Friday December 21, 2007 @04:20PM (#21783692)
    I came accross this information. Seems if light is slowing down why not time? Australian physicist Barry Setterfield and mathematician Trevor Norman examined all of the available experimental measurements to date and have announced a discovery: the speed of light appears to have been slowing down over the years. [Roemer, 1657 (Io eclipse): +/- 307,600 5400 km/sec; Harvard, 1875 (same method): +/- 299,921 13 km/sec; NBS, 1983 (laser method): +/- 299,792.4586 0.0003 km/sec.] They all are approximately 186,000 miles/second; or about one foot/nanosecond.)3 While the margin of error improved over the years, the mean value has noticeably decreased. In fact, the bands of uncertainty hardly overlap. As you would expect, these findings are highly controversial, especially to the more traditional physicists. However, many who scoffed at the idea initially have subsequently begun to take a closer look at the possibilities. Alan Montgomery, the Canadian mathematician, has also analyzed the data statistically and has concluded that the decay of c, the velocity of light, has followed a cosecant-squared curve with a correlation coefficient of better than 99%.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Could you provide some links? Alan Montgomery doesn't show up in Wiki doesn't show anything and Google gets too many professors.
    • by shellbeach ( 610559 ) on Friday December 21, 2007 @11:06PM (#21787572)

      I came accross this information. Seems if light is slowing down why not time? Australian physicist Barry Setterfield and mathematician Trevor Norman examined all of the available experimental measurements to date and have announced a discovery: the speed of light appears to have been slowing down over the years.
      Not enough ns, presumably highly vague estimates of error. You can't write that c is decreasing based on three measurements, which is probably why only 16 dodgy publications [google.com] have cited this work since it was published in 1987.

      I'm also slightly disturbed by the fact that you copied your post paragraph verbatim from http://www.khouse.org/articles/1995/58/ [khouse.org], a web site that has as its mission statement, "To create, develop, and distribute materials to stimulate, encourage, and facilitate serious study of the Bible as the inerrant Word of God." Probably not the best source for a discussion of theoretical physics, methinks ...
  • by Mantrid ( 250133 ) on Friday December 21, 2007 @04:20PM (#21783698) Journal
    Let's all concentrate on making a big red cloud around the world, then we can remove ourselves from this universe all together!
  • by oahazmatt ( 868057 ) on Friday December 21, 2007 @04:33PM (#21783948) Journal
    Clearly, this is a wake-up call for the Universe. Our dependency on time must not continue if we are to survive. Contact your President, your Prime Minister, all of your representatives and demand investigations into alternative time resources.

    Perhaps something corn-based.
  • Just like on the license plate on Dr. Browns DeLorian.
  • by sam_handelman ( 519767 ) <skh2003NO@SPAMcolumbia.edu> on Friday December 21, 2007 @04:43PM (#21784078) Homepage Journal
    Their calculations are off because they are educated to be evil, and fail to appreciate that each day is actually four days long! [wikipedia.org].

      When you account for this 1:4 ratio, the extra dark energy drops out of the equations, and the universe does not collapse into an academic singularity, but into four nodes, two major and two minor! The academic community will not teach this because it is brainwashing.

      (Actually, I just really want this story to have the Time Cube metatag.)
    • Their calculations are off because they are educated to be evil, and fail to appreciate that each day is actually four days long!.

      I tried to understand what the Time Cube page meant by four days in one, where it is simultaneously morning, noon, evening, and night. And then it hit me: he's talking about time zones. In the Time Cube world, each day has a 24-hour day for each of the four non-polar faces of the cube, with time zones spaced six hours apart. But there are a lot more than four time zones [wikipedia.org] on this planet.

  • Wouldn't something like this be the equal of being frozen at the fabled "absolute zero" (a state of lacking all energy)?
  • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Friday December 21, 2007 @09:34PM (#21787044) Homepage

    A preprint of the paper is available from arxiv.org [arxiv.org].

    The general idea seems to be this. We observe that distant galaxies have an anomalously low redshift relative to the expectations of the linear Hubble relation, and we interpret this as evidence that the expansion of the universe has been accelerating. General relativity allows you to interpret a redshift as a difference in the rate of passage of time, so then an anomalously low redshift correponds to an anomalously low rate of passage of time, for us, compared to the distant galaxies, which were in the ancient universe where time was passing more quickly.

    A couple of things leave me scratching my head:

    1. In general, if there's going to be a change from Lorentzian to Euclidean spacetime, you would think there would have to be some pretty dramatic event that marked the end of time. This is not just a change in the global properties of the universe (which might not be obvious to a local observer), it's a change in the local properies of spacetime. An observer who's sitting around at the moment of the changeover would have to have his worldline terminate. But in this paper, they don't seem to discuss any dramatic future event, such as a Big Crunch. The caption of Fig. 1 refers to something called a "little bang," but I don't know what they mean by that.
    2. It's not clear to me whether they're proposing an unrealistic model that has interesting mathematical properties, or a realistic model of our own universe. Our universe has a repulsive cosmological constant, but they're talking about anti-de Sitter spaces, where it's attractive. I think they may be saying that the bulk of the brane is anti-de Sitter, but observers on the brane who believe in general relativity misinterpret their universe as de Sitter.
  • by Wylfing ( 144940 ) <brian@noSpAM.wylfing.net> on Friday December 21, 2007 @10:14PM (#21787254) Homepage Journal

    An astronaut falling toward a black hole (assuming for the sake of argument that he does not get torn apart by tidal forces) perceives that it actually takes forever to fall into the black hole. Externally we would seem him slow down and then stop at the even horizon, but this "stop" is merely the curve receding into infinity, so that further increments are so small we cannot see them. But the astronaut's subjective time becomes infinite.

    So if time is slowing down locally, I guess that means in a few billion years we'll all be living in a static (albeit smaller) universe that goes on forever.

  • by hcdejong ( 561314 ) <hobbes@[ ]net.nl ['xms' in gap]> on Saturday December 22, 2007 @08:46AM (#21789836)
    "People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually, from a non-linear, non subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, Timey-Wimey... stuff"

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant