Is The Universe Dying?

The early, active, bright, busy happy universe is already losing steam, you see, it isn’t the sort of thing to keep popping and growing as a poet or author of sentiments might hope. Unfortunately, this universe is a friend to decadence, and as our chronometers go on, so too will the expanse of space the universe occupies, but the relatively finite amount of energy will become so thinly spread that nothing will be anything but the darkest, the darkest nothing, for billions of miles, hundreds of light years, thousands of light years, eventually you could walk the distance of the existent universe from one corner to the other without seeing a single spark because it’s all gone.


This inevitable de-cadence to nihilism was presented in a paper to the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union in Honolulu on Monday, August 10th. In the paper, the procedure of a group of researchers is limned, in which 200,000 galaxies’ light from across the cosmos is compared. What they found is this universe’s end: there is about half as much total energy as there was 2 billion years ago.


Before this is prematurely dismissed as irrelevant out of theoretical impracticality, let’s check our semantics and make sure we’re speaking of the same thing. The observable universe is an incredibly vast empty space littered with dense strands of energy, with stars, nebulae and galaxies, but most ubiquitous are the dark unknown particles which rule scientists’ cosmological models. The physical laws governing the behavior of the universe predict that this massive amount of energy will tend toward homogeneity. Eventually, every particle in every star will run out of hydrogen to burn and go quiet, as it continues to spread across the breadth of space. The universe is not a fiction writer, so why should it specialize in novelty?

“So what that means is the universe won’t be hospitable for life anywhere,” laments John Beacom, physicist at Ohio State University. “Not for our life in the Milky way, not anywhere else in any other galaxy. We’re clearly on this inexorable trend where they are all running out of fuel.”


But a reader’s reluctance to accept the universe’s death may actually stem from an anthropocentrism: the universe was never a living thing. “We’re using this metaphor of the death of the universe, I’m not entirely sure what that means,” remarked Leonard Finkelman, a philosopher at Linfield University in Oregon. Truly, those of us trying to be optimists may in this case just be too narcissistically obsessed with Personal Meaning to see what’s staring you in the face, if you would just look at what we’re talking about. Space. Not a bourgeois cocktail party. A dark, inhuman, empty, boundless abyss, of which you are seeing only a relatively microscopic tip. Space.

As far as life is concerned, it is a short-lived, recent novelty that struts and frets its hour upon a miniscule stage, and consciousness may very well be nothing but a mistake in human evolution, one whose highest activity is the contemplation of its own absurdity–that it believes it needs a reason to exist so badly in the face of the cosmos’ ultimate indifference.

Don’t look to vast expanses of the universe for Personal Meaning. Nietzsche once said that whatever you choose, take care that you also choose its eternal return. So before you queue Wagner’s Tristan, consider that we’re here, now, making our own choices, and (save for the possibility of H.G. Wells’ Time Machine) we need not found our worth on the ultimate destiny of the cosmos. Generally, creating a little bit more than sentimental speculation will spare anyone from nihilistic ennui.