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What does the future look like?

jelliott

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Science and technology have grown exponentially within the past century alone. Even today, the concept of predicting the future using empirical evidence seems mind-boggling, despite all the advancements we have made.

I bring this up because I recently stumbled upon a Wikipedia page chronologically organizing the series of events that will occur within our solar system, and it spans an immense period of time. Note that, being somewhat of a cosmic weather forecast, it isn't exact - but it does use trends that physicists notice and are aware of in order to map out these events. Being a physics blog, I'll focus on the physics-y implications of this timeline, namely astrophysics and particle physics.

To start with, these predictions take into account the laws of thermodynamics, and assumes a universe that does not experience a "Big Crunch" (which is a concept that states the universe will collapse in on itself in a finite time, and perhaps then lead to another Big Bang).

The year is 52,000. (Approximately.) The gravitational forces exerted between the Earth and its moon will alter the Earth's rotation (slowing it down) causing the length of our day to increase from 86,400 seconds to 86,401 seconds. In other words, a leap second must be added to the clock each day (or we could just alter our time system).

The year is 502,000. A meteorite of diameter 1 km will likely hit us. Unless, by then, we have the technology to avert it. Where's Jimmy Neutron when you need him?

It's about 7.6 billion years in the future. The Sun has reached the peak of its Red Giant phase, and is 256 times larger than it is today. The Earth and Moon are "very likely destroyed" by being engulfed in the Sun. I hope you've packed your SPF 50 sunscreen.

274px-Red_Giant_Earth_warm.jpg

That's our planet in seven billion years! Cool, huh? Looks hospitable.

Ooooh, this next one's exciting. A particle physics one. In 10^(10^56) years (that's a 1 with 10^56 zeros after it), it is estimated that random quantum fluctuations will cause another Big Bang. Something interesting about this number: even though it's stated in years, it is so unfathomably large that you could list it in nanoseconds, or the lifespan of a star: and the numbers would barely change.

Now, we humans are self-centered. What's in it for us? Well, if we're not extinct by this point, in 100,000 years it is possible that we could have colonized Mars by altering its climate, creating a human-friendly environment. Pretty cool stuff.

There is so much more to be seen here, so check it out if you're interested; it's wild.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_far_future



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