I am not a physicist. Nor am I a philosopher. I will however die and leave some sort of legacy. That legacy may last a day, or perhaps it will survive for the rest of my generation. And really, legacies are all that matter when considering how the universe will end. Therefore I feel qualified to write this review.
The point is: my legacy will not last forever.
Neither will Aristotle’s. Nor Gandhi’s. Nor Donald Trump’s.
At least not if the theory of Heat Death is correct. Here’s a primer by my favorite explainer, Kurzgesagt.
Rather bleak, eh?
On the surface, I want to rate heat death a 1. I mean, it doesn’t get much worse than every atom in existence drifting apart until they freeze to absolute zero. It hardly matters what’s written on your tombstone at that point.
But is it that bad? Let’s try to take a broader view.
The big bang happened 13,799,000,000* years ago
* +/- 59 million years
I know this because Wikipedia says it. Wikipedia knows because some smart humans figured it out.
Humanity knows this because we’ve spawned some pretty smart folk who happened to live in societies that allowed them to dedicate much of their time and brainpower to hypothesizing, testing, and recording results.
When these records are shared, more smart folk were empowered. Rather than starting from scratch they get to build on earlier work. Through a lot of years of advancing and refining our techniques, we’ve gotten pretty darn good at calculating the age of stuff.
Nobody knows what went on before the big bang, but we can safely say the universe is at least 13 billion years old.
So here we are at the year 13,799,000,000 ABB (After Big Bang)
- The earth was born in the year 9,256,000,000 ABB
- The telephone arrived in the year 13,798,999,858 ABB
- The first movie theater opened in the year 13,798,999,884 ABB
- The feature film Tangerine was shot entirely with a telephone in the year 13,798,999,991 ABB
- The Sun will burn up the earth around the year 21,399,000,000 ABB source
- Solar systems will cease to exist in or around the year 1,000,021,399,000,000 ABB
We’re advancing fast, and we’ve got a long way to go before the sun fries us and an inconceivable amount of time before solar systems are a thing of the past.
If we can avoid killing each other or destroying the earth early – there is plenty of time for us to find a way outside of our solar system before it’s too late. Even if you throw in another ice age or mass extinction that wipes most of us out.
Once again, here’s Kurzgesagt to help us visualize the timeline.
At the rate we’re going I’ll be happy if humanity makes it of the solar system in time.
Barring that, it would be nice if some alien race discovered our dead planet and can catalog some of the artifacts and puzzle out a crude history to share with the other denizens of the Milky Way.
In the end, Heat Death still sucks, but it’s so far away that humanity has a long, long time (assuming we don’t destroy ourselves) to figure out how to travel to a dimension without heat death.
Nothing motivates like a deadline.
And besides, by then, it won’t really matter what Donald Trump tweeted on October 30, 13,798,999,999 ABB.
….Also, there is NO COLLUSION!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30; 13,798,999,999