The Universe, Expanding Beyond All Understanding
By DENNIS OVERBYE June 5, 2007
When Albert Einstein was starting out on his
cosmological quest 100 years ago, the universe was
apparently a pretty simple and static place. Common
wisdom had it that all creation consisted of an island
of stars and nebulae known as the Milky Way surrounded
by infinite darkness. We like to think we're smarter
than that now.
We ALWAYS like to think that we're smarter than we
are. But I suspect the truth is that we've gone
downhill since the Stone Age. --SDR
We know space is sprinkled from now to forever with
galaxies rushing away from one another under the
impetus of the Big Bang. Bask in your knowledge while
you can. Our successors, whoever and wherever they
are, may have no way of finding out about the Big Bang
and the expanding universe, according to one of the
more depressing scientific papers I have ever read. If
things keep going the way they are, Lawrence Krauss of
Case Western Reserve University and Robert J. Scherrer
of Vanderbilt University calculate, in 100 billion
Whoa! This goomer believes we're going to be around
100 billion years from now! I got $10 bucks sez we
don't make it to the end of this century. --SDR
the only galaxies left visible in the sky will be the
half-dozen or so bound together gravitationally into
what is known as the Local Group, which is not
expanding and in fact will probably merge into one
starry ball. Unable to see any galaxies flying away,
those astronomers will not know the universe is
expanding and will think instead that they are back in
the static island universe of Einstein. As the
authors, who are physicists, write in a paper to be
published in The Journal of Relativity and
Gravitation, "observers in our 'island universe' will
be fundamentally incapable of determining the true
nature of the universe."
The same is true today, where today's astronomers
look out and misinterpret "what they see" into being
"all there is." Thereby also remaining fundamentally
incapable of determining the true nature of the
universe. [see SDR comment on Stone Age summit of
our I.Q.s] Thankfully, there is one human being left
who still uses his brains instead of his i'balls to
determine the true nature of the universe. Visit:
[Only registered users see links. ]
It is hard to count all the ways in which this is sad.
Nonsense. It's hilarious!
Forget the implied mortality of our species and
everything it has or has not accomplished.
Life is what it is. "Live you life & think it nice."
In the end, the rocks will not mourn ye. And, to
one dead, the three seconds after one's death are
the same as all the infinity that hath ever been &
will ever be. --SDR
If you are of a certain science fiction age, like me,
you might have grown up with a vague notion of the
evolution of the universe as a form of growing
self-awareness: the universe coming to know itself,
getting smarter and smarter, culminating in some grand
understanding, commanding the power to engineer
galaxies and redesign local spacetime.
It is a common misconception that evolution is
always upwards & onwards. While the truth is that it
is often off to some side dead end, and even
backwards into greater barbarity/morality. --SDR
Instead, we have the prospect of a million separate
Sisyphean efforts with one species after another
pushing the rock up the hill only to have it roll back
down and be forgotten. Worse, it makes you wonder just
how smug we should feel about our own knowledge.
"There may be fundamentally important things that
determine the universe that we can't see," Dr. Krauss
said in an interview. "You can have right physics, but
the evidence at hand could lead to the wrong
conclusion. The same thing could be happening today."
Hello! ... [Only registered users see links. ]
The proximate culprit here is dark energy, which has
been responsible for much of the bad news in physics
over the last 10 years. This is the mysterious force,
discovered in 1998, that is accelerating the cosmic
expansion that is causing the galaxies to rush away
faster and faster. The leading candidate to explain
that acceleration is a repulsion embedded in space
itself, known as the cosmological constant. Einstein
postulated the existence of such a force back in 1917
to explain why the universe didn't collapse into a
black hole, and then dropped it when Edwin Hubble
discovered that distant galaxies were flying away -
the universe was expanding.
There ya go: Human stupidity in a single paragraph!
The fact IS that the universe IS collapsing into a
"black hole." The fact that "we" are living in its
singularity blinds us to that fact (unless you are
griviously a throwback to when we were Stone Age
smarter). The fact [how many facts is that
already?] ... the fact that "velocities" are
relativistic, and NOT absolute, blinds us to the
fact that our fragile lives can exist AS the matter
of such a universal singularity (which we
experience at such close-up a magnification as to
make us lose all perspective of its singular
If this is Einstein's constant at work - and some
astronomers despair of ever being able to say
definitively whether it is or is not - the future is
clear and dark. In their paper, Dr. Krauss and Dr.
Scherrer extrapolated forward in time what has become
a sort of standard model of the universe, 14 billion
years old, and composed of a trace of ordinary matter,
a lot of dark matter and Einstein's cosmological
Why, O why can't these clever chaps work on the
third race at Santa Anita instead? --SDR
As this universe expands and there is more space,
there is more force pushing the galaxies outward
faster and faster. As they approach the speed of
light, the galaxies will approach a sort of horizon
and simply vanish from view, as if they were falling
into a black hole,
Everywhere we are surrounded by a black hole, and
these "geniuses" can't seem to glimpse hair nor
hide of it! --SDR
their light shifted to infinitely long wavelengths and
dimmed by their great speed. The most distant galaxies
disappear first as the horizon slowly shrinks around
us like a noose. A similar cloak of invisibility will
befall the afterglow of the Big Bang, an already faint
bath of cosmic microwaves, whose wavelengths will be
shifted so that they are buried by radio noise in our
Unless a piano falls on your head. Then it won't
matter even whether the movers had insurance or not.
Another vital clue, the abundance of deuterium, a
heavy form of hydrogen manufactured in the Big Bang,
in deep space, will become unobservable because to be
seen it needs to be backlit from distant quasars, and
those quasars, of course, will have disappeared.
Eventually, in the far far future, this runaway dark
energy will suck all the energy and life out of the
universe. A few years ago, Edward Witten, a prominent
theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study, called a
universe that is accelerating forever "not very
appealing." Dr. Krauss has called it simply "the worst
Ah! Another goomer who's just now realized that the
universe a trillion billion years from now will be
inhospitable to the butterflies in his backyard:
What will his little son collect then?! -- SDR
But our future cosmologists will be spared this
vision, according to the calculations. Instead they
will puzzle about why the visible universe seems to
consist of six galaxies, Dr. Krauss said. "What is the
significance of six? Hundreds of papers will be
written on that," he said.
Wait a minute: What kind of stars are these that
seem to be existing a trillion years from now to
keep our Sun company? --SDR
Those cosmologists may worry instead that their galaxy
cloud will collapse into a black hole one day and,
like Einstein, propose a cosmic repulsion to prevent
Ya mean like the "dark energy" which the current
crop of ignoramuses are proposing today for the
acceleration of the universe's expansion? Hmmm...
But they will have no way of knowing if they were
Here's a hint: If there's not one (!) single fact
contradicting your proposal, it "may" be right [go
study [Only registered users see links. ] ] And if there is
no end of new facts seemingly contradicting your Big
Bang... it's blown up: Let it go already. Life is
cruel. Become a cobbler like your father told you.
Although by then the universe will be mostly dark
energy, Dr. Krauss said, it will be undetectable
By the only instruments "dark energy people" will be
able to construct then: those also only made of dark
energy. [These are your brainiacs at work... on
account of all Stone Age smart guys are dead now.
Evolution having devolved.] --SDR
unless astronomers want to follow the course of the
occasional star that gets thrown out of the galaxy and
is caught up in the dark cosmic current. But it would
have to be followed for 10 billion years, he said - an
experiment the National Science Foundation would be
unlikely to finance. "This is even weirder," Dr.
Krauss said. "Five billion years ago dark energy was
unobservable; 100 billion years from now it will
become invisible again."
Oh, I'm ... sorry ... where did you say that
polaroid of dark energy is? I must've missed that
one. What? You say we know it "exists' NOT because
we have a bit of it in a lab but because we have
looked at the universe (obviously ALL THERE IS) and
"see" that it is "THE ONLY possible solution" to the
problem (having also consulted God, and all the
angels--in case God too is an ignoramus)...? --SDR
It turns out that you don't actually need dark energy
to be this pessimistic about the future, as Dr. Krauss
and Dr. Scherrer point out. In 1987, George Ellis, a
mathematician and astronomer at the University of Cape
Town, in South Africa, and Tony Rothman, currently
lecturing at Princeton, wrote a paper showing how even
ordinary expansion would gradually carry most galaxies
too far away to be seen, setting the stage for cosmic
I'm sorry, but I do not believe that even after a
billion years of ever more growing ignorance we
could possibly be more ignorant than we are right
now. I just don't believe it. --SDR
Dark energy speeds up the picture, Dr. Ellis said in
an e-mail message, adding that he was glad to see the
new paper, which adds many astrophysical details.
"It's an interesting gloss on the far future," he
said. James Peebles, a Princeton cosmologist, said
there were more pressing worries. We might be headed
toward a universe that is "asymptotically empty," he
said, "But I have the uneasy feeling that the U.S.A.
is headed into asymptotic futility well before that."
You might object that the inhabitants of the far
future will be far more advanced than we are.
I personally believe they will have pet monkeys
instead of dogs. Don't laugh, this is a significant
Maybe they will be able to detect dark energy - or the
extra dimensions of string theory, for that matter -
in the laboratory. Maybe they will even be us, in some
form or other, if the human race manages to get out of
the solar system before the Sun blows up in five
Man! This goomer doesn't even know that the Sun
isn't going to blow up but gently inflate into a
red giant! Is he the panhandler I gave that nickle
too outside The New York Times building? --SDR
But if relativity is right, they won't be able to
build telescopes that can see past the edge of the
In five billiiioin years? Man, in 5 billion years
Americans will have probably come up with the
self-cooking dog-on-a-stick. (And Muslims will
probably even start believing the earth isn't flat
after all--Or at least stop chopping off the heads
of people who say they no longer believe it.) Okay,
so I'm an optimist. --SDR
It's not too late to start thinking about sending out
the robot probes that could drift down through alien
skies eons from now with, if not us or our DNA, at
least a few nuggets of wisdom -
"What does it say, Ork?" "It says, 'Nixon was
right.' Korc." --SDR
that the world is made of atoms and that it started
with a bang.
"Who/whatever they are/were: They had a sense of
humor, Korc. Qua, qua, qua, qua, qua!" --SDR
The lesson in the meantime is that we don't know what
we don't know, and we never will - a lesson that
extends beyond astronomy. Einstein once said, "The
Lord God is subtle but malicious he is not."
I always knew Einstein would've made a great Pope.
(If it wasn't for the fact that it would've been
hard for him to fit his Afro even inside those Chess
hats popes wear.) --SDR
I wondered in light of this new report whether it
might be time to revise that quotation. Max Tegmark, a
cosmologist at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, told me the problem was not malice but
human arrogance - a necessary but unfortunate
condition for scientific progress. "We have a tendency
to put ourselves at the center of the universe," he
said. "We assume all we see is all there is." But, as
Dr. Tegmark noted, Big Bang theorists already suppose
that basic aspects of the universe are out of sight.
NOTE: Admission by BBers that they don't know. But
that they KNOW what they're talking about when
they're talking about what they don't know. No, I
said, "Who's on first?" --SDR
The reason we believe we live in a smooth, orderly
universe instead of the chaotic one that is more
likely, they say, is that the chaos has been hidden.
According to the dominant theory of the Big Bang,
known as inflation, an extremely violent version of
dark energy blew it up a fraction of a second after
time began, stretching and smoothing space and
pushing all the wildness and chaos and even perhaps
other universes out of the sky, where they will never
This is the "beach wave" analogy theory of
everything. THERE IS NEVER ANYTHING NEW IN
THE HUMAN MIND. --SDR
"Inflation tells us we live in a messy universe,"
Messy minds tell us we live in a messy universe. A
clear mind [ [Only registered users see links. ] ] shows us
we live in a simple, straightforward universe.
Dr. Tegmark said. Luckily we never have to confront
it. Ignorance is us, or is it bliss?
If we are lucky, "we is bliss."
S D Rodrian [Only registered users see links. ] [Only registered users see links. ] [Only registered users see links. ]
All religions are local.
Only science is universal.