Big Think Interview With Laurent Dubois
Laurent Dubois is Professor of French Studies and History at Duke University and a leading expert on Haitian history and culture. His books include Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France (University of California Press, forthcoming spring 2010), Slave Revolution in the Caribbean, 1789-1804: A Brief History With Documents (with John Garrigus; 2006), and Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (2004).
Question: What sparked the Haitian Revolution, and why did it succeed where other New World slave uprisings failed?\r\n
Laurent Dubois: Well Saint-Domingue, which was the French colony that became Haiti in 1804, was a very profitable sugar plantation economy. In fact, it was probably the most profitable colony in the Americas at the time. It was a colony that was based upon large sugar plantations with African slaves. The pace of importation in from Africa was massive. There were about a million Africans brought to Saint-Domingue during the course of the eighteenth century and the revolution began in 1791 as a result and part of a number of forces that came together. On the one hand you had you know obviously the longstanding desire of people to be free. There was sense of… There had been resistance in the colony before as there had been in other places, but really the historical conjuncture is the one in which the French Revolution opened up some possibilities for action on the ground and that’s pretty vital to understanding how it worked out. In other words the transformations of the French empire itself or of French power structures themselves as well as the emergence of a kind of language of equal rights starting with the American Revolution and the French Revolution provided an opportunity and in some ways connected with other kinds of ground level desires or hopes and ideologies for freedom that were coming out of the plantation regime itself. The reasons for its successor are multiple. It’s not simply that there was a majority slave population because there were other colonies where that was also the case, notably Jamaica, but it’s a kind of long series of events in which not only did the enslaved insurgence organize very well and fight very well, we can talk about that more, but also they found allies and they actually… the abolition of slavery in the colony is the result of an alliance with French allies of various kinds. And then anyway, yeah. Do you want me to continue?\r\n
Question: How did the outcome of the Haitian Revolution shape the country's subsequent government and social order?\r\n
Laurent Dubois: Right. So the first big dramatic push in the Haitian Revolution was to overthrow the slave regime and we have to remember this was really the first place where there was a large scale emancipation experiment. There had been abolition in some North American colonies, but really on a small scale and not in you know large slave colonies. So what the regime in Saint-Domingue after the revolution had to deal with was how do you move from slavery to freedom on a massive scale, right? 90% of the population was enslaved people. What’s the economy going to look like? What’s labor going to look like? And in many ways that whole tension which happened during the revolution continued on in Haitian history afterwards. In 1802, 1803 the French government decides essentially to crush the kind of autonomous black regime that’s emerged in Saint-Domingue led by Toussaint L'Ouverture, the famous general and governor and in that moment essentially they kind of force a choice on the people of Saint-Domingue, which is whether to be you know to be re-enslaved under the French or be free and independent and obviously they fight for and win their independence in order to preserve a liberty they had won before. The result though of that conflict is a kind of both the expulsion of the French and then the creation of a kind of new class of elites, a new order in which the question of who is going to own land, who is going to work for who and all those kinds of questions become very important ones in nineteenth century Haiti.\r\n
Question: Why has Haiti experienced so much poverty and instability throughout its history, and how much are France and the U.S. to blame?\r\n
Laurent Dubois: Well it’s been up and down. I mean there is obviously a lot of instability, parts of the nineteenth century. There was actually quite long periods of political stability as well in the nineteenth century as well as some in the twentieth century, so it sometimes can be exaggerated. We have to remember in the nineteenth century our country was pretty unstable too at certain moments, but there is a way in which there is some very fundamental tensions I think that do undergird a lot of that… a lot of those conflicts. One is simply the tension between a large number of people who are living in the rural areas whose goal is essentially a kind of autonomy, agriculture that feeds themselves, ability to trade, but kind of on their own terms and then alongside that there is a lot of people who are hoping to kind of continue and revive plantation agriculture, particularly with coffee in order to export to the broader world, so the kind of tension between different economic visions I would say is one of the underlying tensions. You also have to remember that the Haitian state is under enormous pressure from the beginning. Many countries see the emergence of Haiti as a very serious threat. They do have trade with a lot of countries, notably the US and North American, but diplomatic recognition only comes in 1825 from France and actually during the Civil War from the United States, so it’s kind of seen as a dangerous state and Haitian elites are in this kind of perpetual position of kind of trying to sort of prove to the outside world and in some ways you know gain recognition from the outside world. In 1825 they actually are levied a major indemnity by the French who asked that in return for granting recognition that Haitians pay a 125 million francs and that actually creates a spiral of debt in which the Haitian state is still kind of embroiled. So there are a lot of outside forces that weaken in some ways what might have otherwise happened in the country.\r\n
Question: What connections can be drawn between Haitian history and the current societal problems that have exacerbated the current tragedy?\r\n
Laurent Dubois: Yeah. I mean a lot of what we… We really need to go back I think to the early twentieth century to understand a lot of what is going on today. I mean one point is simply that it’s important to remember there is a 20 year US. occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934. That represents a major transition in the history of the country and kind of reshaping partly in terms of just their direction of their attention. I mean obviously shifts a lot of connections from France to the US and that occupation sets in motion a number of things that have profound consequences in Haiti. One of them is the formation of the Haitian Army, which had basically been a decentralized militia like army before and which becomes a centralized army. It’s actually created because there is serious resistance to the US occupation in the countryside and the Haitian Army is used with the marines to suppress that resistance. That creates a sort of force in Haitian politics which is going to kind of be a profound force throughout the twentieth century, which Aristide actually disbanded when he returned with… after he was returned by the US in the ‘90s. So the place of the Haitian Army I think is really, really crucial. That’s something to keep in mind and then simply a kind of serious conflict over who is going to kind of speak on behalf of the population of Haiti. Which elites are going to take that role is one that really creates a lot of tensions within the Haitian political elite over the course of time, so if I was to summarize it’s partly that from the very beginning the Haitians state is under tremendous pressure from outside forces that are kind of demanding of it certain things in order to gain recognition and at the same time internally there is a tremendous conflict between very different visions of what autonomy and liberty should mean in the country.\r\n
Question: What are the major obstacles Haiti faces in trying to rebuild after the earthquake?\r\n
Laurent Dubois: The problem is in part there is just a major problem about the Haitian state. What is the Haitian state going to look like? Obviously, I mean, that’s been an issue that people have been dealing with for some time and even before the earthquake there was a substantial UN presence and NGO’s and so forth, so all of those kinds of issues that were there before the earthquake are only exacerbated by the major blow that the Haitian state has structurally received really to the core since many of its buildings have been destroyed and so forth. So there is going to be a real question about what the interlocutors are, how the Haitian state is going to interact with others. I mean the state, the institution, the people are still there, but how the infrastructure is going to work is a big question. I would say more broadly one really has to think about Haiti in a complicated way in the sense there are all kinds of forms of organization beyond the state. The state is actually very, in some ways, very limited in its reach within Haiti in terms of certainly in terms of schools, services and many other things. Haiti is an extremely privatized society and most things are done through private trade, so the question of whether the communities of action, you know, how does aid get to particular neighborhoods, it’s very clear already that there is a really different set of experiences between different neighborhoods in Haiti based on where they are and how they’re seen from the outside, so very, very important questions about who the interlocutors are for assistance and what that existence is particularly geared towards. You know, what is going to be done? What is the purpose of that assistance? All those are very big and open questions and in a sense the earthquake just raises the stakes and really perhaps opens up the possibility for a real rethinking of some of those things as well.\r\n
Question: What changes must Haiti make to its government and social institutions in order to rebuild?\r\n
Laurent Dubois: Well, in a way, I mean, although there has been ongoing problems in the last couple of years, I would say that before the earthquake there was in some ways some positive developments. Many people felt like things were going on a better track. It’s been a very, very difficult couple of decades in Haiti obviously. So in some ways maybe some of that can get recovered. I mean I think a lot of people… You know it’s such a massive tragedy and the loss of life is so tremendous as well as just the loss… you know the transformation of the city. It’s hard to think… In some ways it’s really hard to see forward right now, but obviously there may be an opportunity for people to think differently about the delivery of services, about how neighborhoods are constructed and also about how those neighborhoods are organized. I mean I think as always the best-case scenario will be if there is a real kind of collaboration with grassroots, with people in communities themselves who can kind of express and find their aspirations and voice their aspirations in the project of rebuilding so that the communities that they have are the kinds of communities they want to live in. Obviously there has been a problem with basic services in a lot of neighborhoods in ****. If that could be addressed in reconstruction that would obviously be an incredibly helpful thing, issues about water and sewage and you know basic kind of infrastructural issues would be excellent, but there is a larger question about, you know, what role is the government going to play and how is the government going to intersect with many outside agencies that are now involved. We’ve already seen there is a great deal of confusion at times about who is doing what and those are serious questions that could really… And you know if there is debate or struggle in that way it could really undermine how much of this aide really helps you know profoundly helps the Haitian people.\r\n
Question: One commentator has argued that France should provide billions in disaster relief to Haiti as historical "reparations." Do you agree?\r\n
Laurent Dubois: I mean this is a question… Aristide actually demanded the same thing before his overthrow and there was a whole commission setup in France to study the question. You know perhaps a cynic will be maybe not surprised that they decided that they shouldn’t provide direct reparations, but they of course had a responsibility to provide aid. Although not as much as the United States, France does provide, you know, a lot of aid to Haiti and has for some time. They are very invested in particular, notably in cultural realms in Haiti. There is no doubt that might be one claim to make. At the same time, you know, Haiti is a country that has had kind of the misfortune of being colonized twice in a certain way. This is a, you know, they won independence from France and then 120 years later were then conquered by… you know, occupied by the United States. People even refer to the 1934 moment as the second independence of Haiti. You know they had to get their independence twice, but those kinds of experiences mean that while of course many people welcome and of course many elites have often worked with outsiders, there is a real sense of a question about you know what are the intentions of outsiders, what, ultimately, are they trying to do. I think there is a sense that obviously people want to have help and collaboration, but the terms upon which those relationships are worked out is very important and I do think there is a kind of **** in some ways, is that I think people to really kind of understand Haitian society and history and culture quite well as they go in and address these needs otherwise it’s very easy for there to be misunderstandings and conflicts.\r\n
Question: What cultural misunderstandings must other countries shed before they can truly help Haiti?\r\n
Laurent Dubois: I think a couple things. I mean on the historical front I think it’s just vital for people to know that this country you know is born out of a refusal of slavery, right, a refusal of a plantation slavery. This is a country whose workers, whose African slaves produced and enormous amount of wealth for France in particular and other countries as well and who essentially when they freed themselves essentially kind of transformed their country from one that had been producing a lot of wealth into one that didn’t have that same capacity simply because they were slaves. They were the producers of that wealth. When they decided to be human beings, you know free human beings rather than slaves they kind of were forced into a decision. There is a way in which that I think goes through all of Haitian history that kind of desire to refuse a certain kind of form of subjection and enslavement and people are rightly proud of that inheritance, which by the way, had a huge impact. You know it directly lead to the Louisiana Purchase. It kind of improved… It sort of expanded our notion of human rights in radical ways, so there is a kind of you know I think just a sense of the importance of Haitian history so that it’s seen as not as a kind of perpetual… a state of perpetual crisis, but rather also a kind of important historical force. The other really important misconceptions that come up a lot have to do with Haitian voodoo in particular, which you know is often described as a kind of religion that you know makes people that the… I think. David Brookes talked about it making people believe that life is capricious side. I’m not sure exactly the quote, but there is a kind of way in which people view Haitian voodoo, which I think people really need to educate themselves about the religion very carefully because it’s a very important force in Haitian society, and people are rightly sensitive about it being kind of misconstrued. It’s a religion that actually was born in the midst of slave revolution. It’s far from something that teaches people to sort of give up or not struggle. In fact, it’s really a religion linked to both collective and individual struggle and concretely on the ground in Haiti both Protestant organizations, Catholic groups and Voodoo churches are very important social institutions. They provide leadership. They provide community. They provide solace in a time like this, so a real good understanding of the religious landscape that’s sort of taken with an open mind I think will be extremely important for those who are working there.\r\n
Recorded on January 20, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen
A conversation with the Professor of French Studies and History at Duke University.
Join Radiolab's Latif Nasser at 1pm ET today as he chats with Malcolm Gladwell live on Big Think.
UNC School of Medicine researchers identified the amino acid responsible for the trip.
- Researchers at UNC's School of Medicine have discovered the protein responsible for LSD's psychedelic effects.
- A single amino acid—part of the protein, Gαq—activates the mind-bending experience.
- The researchers hope this identification helps shape depression treatment.
What is Bicycle Day?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d346092205da3c9ed10bad283222c9f1"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/L32mAiLXnLs?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Back in the world of clinical science, LSD has always showed promise. That trend continues as restrictions are finally easing up. Understanding LSD's effects on our brain's complex system of networks is an important step toward discovering therapeutic actions. As Roth <a href="https://www.inverse.com/mind-body/how-lsd-binds-to-the-brain-study" target="_blank">says</a> of his research,</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Now we know how psychedelic drugs work – finally! Now we can use this information to, hopefully, discover better medications for many psychiatric diseases."</p><p>Using X-ray crystallography, Roth's team discovered a single amino acid—a building block of the protein, Gαq—responsible for binding to serotonin receptors. As LSD is only a partial agonist, they also experimented with a full-agonist designer psychedelic in order to observe complete receptor activation. This amino acid appears to be the master switch for the psychedelic experience. </p><p>While psilocybin has been in the news, the psychedelic renaissance is expanding in all directions. Phase 1 clinical trials on the <a href="https://newatlas.com/science/landmark-clinical-trial-lsd-mdma-mindmed/" target="_blank">combination</a> of LSD, MDMA, and psychotherapy will soon commence. LSD's effects on <a href="https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03866252" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Major Depressive Disorder</a> and <a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/first-clinical-trial-shows-micro-doses-of-lsd-can-increase-a-person-s-pain-tolerance" target="_blank">pain management</a> are ongoing. With the <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-18/-magic-mushroom-company-moves-toward-mainstream-in-nasdaq-ipo" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first psychedelics company</a> to IPO on the American stock market, along with hundreds of millions of dollars of investment flowing into similar companies and organizations, the push for legalized psychedelics intensifies. </p>
Credit: ynsga / Shutterstock<p>Researchers are actively attempting to remove the hallucinogenic component of psychedelics for widespread therapeutic usage—<a href="https://www.healtheuropa.eu/could-ibogaine-offer-a-revolutionary-long-term-solution-to-addiction/100635/" target="_blank">trials</a> using ibogaine for addiction treatment, for example. Identifying the chemical effects of psychedelics on our brains is an essential step in that process.</p><p>Of course, believing psychedelics <em>only</em> matters to brain chemistry is problematic as well. The rituals associated with their use are just as relevant. The "<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Set_and_setting" target="_blank">set and setting</a>" model espoused by Timothy Leary reminds us that biology isn't everything; environmental factors play just as important a role in mental health. </p><p>Isolating specific chemicals without understanding the impact of the drug <em>and</em> the environment overlooks the holistic nature of the psychedelic experience. For example, ketamine trials <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/ketamine-depression" target="_self">were rushed</a> and could potentially backfire; we can't afford to make that mistake again. </p><p>Still, understanding the pathways LSD utilizes is an important step forward. As Roth says, "Our ultimate goal is to see if we can discover medications which are effective, like psilocybin, for depression but do not have the intense psychedelic actions." In a world where more people are growing anxious and depressed by the day, every intervention should be explored.</p><p> --</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
A team of researchers have discovered the brain rhythmic activity that can split us from reality.
- Researchers have identified the key rhythmic brain activity that triggers a bizarre experience called dissociation in which people can feel detached from their identity and environment.
- This phenomena is experienced by about 2 percent to 10 percent of the population. Nearly 3 out of 4 individuals who have experienced a traumatic event will slip into a dissociative state either during the event or sometime after.
- The findings implicate a specific protein in a certain set of cells as key to the feeling of dissociation, and it could lead to better-targeted therapies for conditions in which dissociation can occur.
What is dissociation?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bd2f1f29418bd4805bf1282001dca814"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/XF2zeOdE5GY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Dissociation is an experience commonly described as a feeling of sudden detachment from the individual's identity and environment, almost like an out-of-body experience. This mysterious phenomena is experienced by about 2 percent to 10 percent of the population.</p><p>"This state often manifests as the perception of being on the outside looking in at the cockpit of the plane that's your body or mind — and what you're seeing you just don't consider to be yourself," explained senior author Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, <a href="https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2020/09/researchers-pinpoint-brain-circuitry-underlying-dissociation.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">in a Stanford Medicine news release</a>. Deisseroth is a professor of bioengineering and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, as well as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.</p><p>Nearly three-quarters of individuals who have experienced a traumatic event will slip into a dissociative state either during the event or in the hours or even weeks that follow, according to Deisseroth. Most of the time, the dissociative experiences end on their own within a few weeks of the trauma. But the eerie experience can become chronic, such as in cases of post-traumatic stress disorder, and extremely disruptive in daily life. The state of dissociation can also occur in epilepsy and be invoked by certain drugs. </p><p>Until now, no one has known what exactly is going on inside the brain triggering and sustaining the feeling of dissociation — and so it has been a challenge to figure out how to stop it and develop effective treatments. </p>
New Research: The Molecular Underpinnings of Dissociation<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQyNjk3My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNTQ3MTI1NX0._nJoxm1eDcTsHsy1Y27JxNl2uR5hlbEYDWYoQlO0EAU/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C121%2C0%2C121&height=700" id="26e86" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1094af23e35a498a8a6b691f1d0cbfaf" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="neurons" />
Neurons from a mouse spinal cord
Credit: NICHD on Flickr<p>Last week, in a study published in <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2731-9" target="_blank">Nature</a><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2731-9">,</a> Deisseroth and his colleagues at Stanford University uncovered a localized brain rhythm and molecule that underlies this state.</p><p>"This study has identified brain circuitry that plays a role in a well-defined subjective experience," said Deisseroth. "Beyond its potential medical implications, it gets at the question, 'What is the self?' That's a big one in law and literature, and important even for our own introspections."</p><p>The authors' findings implicate a specific protein existing in a particular set of cells as key to the feeling of dissociation. </p><p>The research team first used a technique called widefield calcium imaging to record brain-wide neuronal activity in lab mice. They observed and analyzed changes in those brain rhythms after the animals had been administered a range of drugs that are known to cause dissociative states: ketamine, phencyclidine (PCP), and dizocilpine (MK801). At a certain dosage of ketamine, the mice behaved in a way that suggested that they were likely experiencing dissociation. For example, when the animals were placed on an uncomfortably warm surface, they reacted to it by flicking their paws. However, they signaled that they didn't care enough about the unpleasantness to do what they would typically do in such a situation, which is to lick their paws to cool them off. This suggested a dissociation from the surrounding environment.</p><p>The drug produced oscillations in neuronal activity in a region of the mices' brain called the retrosplenial cortex, an area essential for various cognitive functions such as navigation and episodic memory (a unique memory of a specific event). The oscillations occurred at about 1-3 hertz (three cycles per second). The authors then examined the active cells in more detail by using two-photon imaging for higher resolution. This revealed that the oscillations were occurring only in layer 5 of the retrosplenial cortex. Next, the researchers recorded neuronal activity across other regions of the brain. </p><p>"Normally, other parts of the cortex and subcortex are functionally connected to neuronal activity in the retrosplenial cortex," Ken Solt and Oluwaseun Akeju wrote in <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02505-z#ref-CR1" target="_blank">Nature</a>. "However, ketamine caused a disconnect, such that many of these brain regions no longer communicated with the retrosplenial cortex."</p><p>The scientists then used optogenetics, a method of manipulating living tissue with light to control neural function, to stimulate neurons in the mice's retrosplenial cortex. When the scientists did this at a 2-hertz rhythm, they were able to cause dissociative behavior in the animals analogous to the behavior caused by ketamine without using drugs. The experiments conducted by the team displayed how a particular type of protein, an ion channel, was essential to the generation of the hertz signal that caused the dissociative behavior in mice. Scientists are hopeful that this protein could be a potential treatment target in the future. </p>
What about humans?<p>The researchers also recorded electrical activity from brain regions in an epilepsy patient who had reported experiencing dissociation immediately before each seizure. The sensations experienced right before a seizure is called an aura. This aura for the patient was like being "outside the pilot's chair, looking at, but not controlling, the gauges," Deisseroth said.</p><p>The researchers recorded electric signals from the patient's cerebral cortex and stimulated it electrically aiming to identify the origin point of the seizures. While that was happening, the patient responded to questions about how it felt. The authors found that whenever the patient was about to have a seizure, it was preceded by the dissociative aura and a particular pattern of electrical activity localized within the patient's posteromedial cortex. That patterned activity was characterized by an oscillating signal sparked by nerve cells firing in coordination at 3 hertz. When this region of the brain was stimulated electrically, the patient experienced dissociation without having a seizure. </p><p>This study will have far-reaching implications for neuroscience and could lead to better-targeted therapies for disorders in which dissociation can be triggered, such as PTSD, borderline personality, and epilepsy.</p>
Astronomers find these five chapters to be a handy way of conceiving the universe's incredibly long lifespan.
- We're in the middle, or thereabouts, of the universe's Stelliferous era.
- If you think there's a lot going on out there now, the first era's drama makes things these days look pretty calm.
- Scientists attempt to understand the past and present by bringing together the last couple of centuries' major schools of thought.
The 5 eras of the universe<p>There are many ways to consider and discuss the past, present, and future of the universe, but one in particular has caught the fancy of many astronomers. First published in 1999 in their book <a href="https://amzn.to/2wFQLiL" target="_blank"><em>The Five Ages of the Universe: Inside the Physics of Eternity</em></a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Adams" target="_blank">Fred Adams</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_P._Laughlin" target="_blank">Gregory Laughlin</a> divided the universe's life story into five eras:</p><ul><li>Primordial era</li><li>Stellferous era</li><li>Degenerate era</li><li>Black Hole Era</li><li>Dark era</li></ul><p>The book was last updated according to current scientific understandings in 2013.</p><p>It's worth noting that not everyone is a subscriber to the book's structure. Popular astrophysics writer <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/ethansiegel/#30921c93683e" target="_blank">Ethan C. Siegel</a>, for example, published an article on <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2019/07/26/we-have-already-entered-the-sixth-and-final-era-of-our-universe/#7072d52d4e5d" target="_blank"><em>Medium</em></a> last June called "We Have Already Entered The Sixth And Final Era Of Our Universe." Nonetheless, many astronomers find the quintet a useful way of discuss such an extraordinarily vast amount of time.</p>
The Primordial era<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkwMTEyMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNjEzMjY1OX0.PRpvAoa99qwsDNprDme9tBWDim6mS7Mjx6IwF60fSN8/img.jpg?width=980" id="db4eb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0e568b0cc12ed624bb8d7e5ff45882bd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Sagittarius Production/Shutterstock<p> This is where the universe begins, though what came before it and where it came from are certainly still up for discussion. It begins at the Big Bang about 13.8 billion years ago. </p><p> For the first little, and we mean <em>very</em> little, bit of time, spacetime and the laws of physics are thought not yet to have existed. That weird, unknowable interval is the <a href="https://www.universeadventure.org/eras/era1-plankepoch.htm" target="_blank">Planck Epoch</a> that lasted for 10<sup>-44</sup> seconds, or 10 million of a trillion of a trillion of a trillionth of a second. Much of what we currently believe about the Planck Epoch eras is theoretical, based largely on a hybrid of general-relativity and quantum theories called quantum gravity. And it's all subject to revision. </p><p> That having been said, within a second after the Big Bang finished Big Banging, inflation began, a sudden ballooning of the universe into 100 trillion trillion times its original size. </p><p> Within minutes, the plasma began cooling, and subatomic particles began to form and stick together. In the 20 minutes after the Big Bang, atoms started forming in the super-hot, fusion-fired universe. Cooling proceeded apace, leaving us with a universe containing mostly 75% hydrogen and 25% helium, similar to that we see in the Sun today. Electrons gobbled up photons, leaving the universe opaque. </p><p> About 380,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe had cooled enough that the first stable atoms capable of surviving began forming. With electrons thus occupied in atoms, photons were released as the background glow that astronomers detect today as cosmic background radiation. </p><p> Inflation is believed to have happened due to the remarkable overall consistency astronomers measure in cosmic background radiation. Astronomer <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGCVTSQw7WU" target="_blank">Phil Plait</a> suggests that inflation was like pulling on a bedsheet, suddenly pulling the universe's energy smooth. The smaller irregularities that survived eventually enlarged, pooling in denser areas of energy that served as seeds for star formation—their gravity pulled in dark matter and matter that eventually coalesced into the first stars. </p>
The Stelliferous era<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkwMTEzNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMjA0OTcwMn0.GVCCFbBSsPdA1kciHivFfWlegOfKfXUfEtFKEF3otQg/img.jpg?width=980" id="bc650" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c8f86bf160ecdea6b330f818447393cd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Casey Horner/unsplash<p>The era we know, the age of stars, in which most matter existing in the universe takes the form of stars and galaxies during this active period. </p><p>A star is formed when a gas pocket becomes denser and denser until it, and matter nearby, collapse in on itself, producing enough heat to trigger nuclear fusion in its core, the source of most of the universe's energy now. The first stars were immense, eventually exploding as supernovas, forming many more, smaller stars. These coalesced, thanks to gravity, into galaxies.</p><p>One axiom of the Stelliferous era is that the bigger the star, the more quickly it burns through its energy, and then dies, typically in just a couple of million years. Smaller stars that consume energy more slowly stay active longer. In any event, stars — and galaxies — are coming and going all the time in this era, burning out and colliding.</p><p>Scientists predict that our Milky Way galaxy, for example, will crash into and combine with the neighboring Andromeda galaxy in about 4 billion years to form a new one astronomers are calling the Milkomeda galaxy.</p><p>Our solar system may actually survive that merger, amazingly, but don't get too complacent. About a billion years later, the Sun will start running out of hydrogen and begin enlarging into its red giant phase, eventually subsuming Earth and its companions, before shrining down to a white dwarf star.</p>
The Degenerate era<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkwMTE1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTk3NDQyN30.gy4__ALBQrdbdm-byW5gQoaGNvFTuxP5KLYxEMBImNc/img.jpg?width=980" id="77f72" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="08bb56ea9fde2cee02d63ed472d79ca3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Diego Barucco/Shutterstock/Big Think<p>Next up is the Degenerate era, which will begin about 1 quintillion years after the Big Bang, and last until 1 duodecillion after it. This is the period during which the remains of stars we see today will dominate the universe. Were we to look up — we'll assuredly be outta here long before then — we'd see a much darker sky with just a handful of dim pinpoints of light remaining: <a href="https://earthsky.org/space/evaporating-giant-exoplanet-white-dwarf-star" target="_blank">white dwarfs</a>, <a href="https://earthsky.org/space/new-observations-where-stars-end-and-brown-dwarfs-begin" target="_blank">brown dwarfs</a>, and <a href="https://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/definition-what-is-a-neutron-star" target="_blank">neutron stars</a>. These"degenerate stars" are much cooler and less light-emitting than what we see up there now. Occasionally, star corpses will pair off into orbital death spirals that result in a brief flash of energy as they collide, and their combined mass may become low-wattage stars that will last for a little while in cosmic-timescale terms. But mostly the skies will be be bereft of light in the visible spectrum.</p><p>During this era, small brown dwarfs will wind up holding most of the available hydrogen, and black holes will grow and grow and grow, fed on stellar remains. With so little hydrogen around for the formation of new stars, the universe will grow duller and duller, colder and colder.</p><p>And then the protons, having been around since the beginning of the universe will start dying off, dissolving matter, leaving behind a universe of subatomic particles, unclaimed radiation…and black holes.</p>
The Black Hole era<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkwMTE2MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMjE0OTQ2MX0.ifwOQJgU0uItiSRg9z8IxFD9jmfXlfrw6Jc1y-22FuQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="103ea" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f0e6a71dacf95ee780dd7a1eadde288d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Vadim Sadovski/Shutterstock/Big Think<p> For a considerable length of time, black holes will dominate the universe, pulling in what mass and energy still remain. </p><p> Eventually, though, black holes evaporate, albeit super-slowly, leaking small bits of their contents as they do. Plait estimates that a small black hole 50 times the mass of the sun would take about 10<sup>68</sup> years to dissipate. A massive one? A 1 followed by 92 zeros. </p><p> When a black hole finally drips to its last drop, a small pop of light occurs letting out some of the only remaining energy in the universe. At that point, at 10<sup>92</sup>, the universe will be pretty much history, containing only low-energy, very weak subatomic particles and photons. </p>
The Dark Era<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkwMTE5NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0Mzg5OTEyMH0.AwiPRGJlGIcQjjSoRLi6V3g5klRYtxQJIpHFgZdZkuo/img.jpg?width=980" id="60c77" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7a857fb7f0d85cf4a248dbb3350a6e1c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Big Think<p>We can sum this up pretty easily. Lights out. Forever.</p>
Innovators don't ignore risk; they are just better able to analyze it in uncertain situations.