Time is running out

Paul Raven @ 30-09-2010

There’s never enough time in the day, is there? Well, turns out that there may be a finite limit on the number of days, too… though not a limit so hard that it’s going to impact our expected personal life-spans very much.

The prevalent theory among cosmologists and physics heads is that the universe can and should expand indefinitely, meaning that time is essentially infinite and unending, but an apostate little gang of researchers are now suggesting that there’s a 50% chance that the universe – and hence time – will run out in around 3.7 billion years. Given that our own Sun is supposed to last another 5 billion years, that’s something of a curtailment of scope…

Their argument against an infinite universe is simple. In an infinite universe, anything can happen and will happen, no matter how unlikely it is. When there’s an infinite amount of every possible observation occurring, then it becomes impossible to determine probabilities of events, making the laws of physics similarly impossible to determine.

Of course, this makes an important philosophical assumption. Do we need to be able to understand the laws of physics, rather than just observing that they work? If so, then the Universe has to have an end.

I love a bit of epic-scale philosophical wrangling (if only as a layman watching from the sidelines), but it’s a little early in the day for it. My head hurts; I think I’ll go and have a little lay down. If Greg Egan calls, please take a message and tell him I’ll get back to him as soon as I’m able.

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One Response to “Time is running out”

  1. ConfidentlyDubious says:

    I seem to recall that the “In an infinite universe, anything can happen and will happen, no matter how unlikely it is” argument was already proposed -along with some of its more funny consequences- by Douglas Adams in his “Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” books. Everyone of us is entitled to draw her own conclusions from this 😉