Time, the Universe and the Whole Darn Thing!
Part Two: The Fate of the Universe
By Allan Eastman
Some Time in the Sun
If you contemplate Life at all, you have to recognize the transience of existence.
We come into being through an incredibly complex set of biochemical genetic factors forming together to create a unique individual. There is a cycle of growth, maturity, decay and finally, death. This is basically true for all forms of life. And also for the various celestial bodies that make up our Universe. Even the largest units in creation – planets, stars, galaxies - follow this evolutionary pattern, though at an extremely extended Time scale when judged against the duration of a Human life. But still, there is a kind of comfort in the similarity of a personal Human existence to the life of a Star, for example. It seems to imply that the Universe is unfolding in the way it is supposed to and that the process we pass through individually is in tune with the life of the Cosmos itself.
Last time, we went through the time line of our Star, the Sun and how its evolution is ultimately responsible for the fate of our home planet and the cool green hills of Earth. This time out, we are going to ride out through the time line of the entire Universe to try to trace its long term evolution and look at several of the extraordinary things going on out there in Deep Space. We will cast our view over immense periods of Time but instead of being intimidated by these big numbers, let’s be encouraged by the idea that we can think in such terms and that our minds can even discover and conceive of such awesome things.
In many ways, the Human race is barely 2 steps out of the cave. We are only now emerging from the infancy of our species and starting to take the first toddling steps towards a new kind of maturity – escaping from superstition, forming a more accurate understanding of what Life is and beginning to look beyond our narrow notions of tribe and state toward a vision of ourselves as the inhabitants of a Universe that we are truly starting to comprehend for the first time.
Our knowledge of the Universe has grown by a tremendous amount in the last century and new discoveries about its nature and the phenomena within it seem to come every week or so. We have a pretty good picture of how it all started, how we got here and where it is all going but it is important to understand that new discoveries and new understandings lay just around the corner and that the fundamental laws we tend to hold true about the Universe are subject to revision. In a decade, a century, a millennium, our conception of the Universe may be as different from what it is now than ours is from the ancient Roman notion of the stars being holes in a crystal sphere 100 miles up in the sky through which the luminescence of the Gods shines forth.