Life Could Continue Forever—Just Not as We Know It

Question: Do you think that life will continue in the Universe\r\n indefinitely?

Katie Freese:  Well with the dark energy most people do \r\nthink that the universe itself will exist indefinitely, but the other \r\nquestion is whether or not there can be life in the long term future.  \r\nIn the standard explanation for the dark energy…  I shouldn’t say \r\nstandard because it really is a big puzzle, but if there is a vacuum \r\nenergy that is constant in time it becomes more and more the driving \r\nforce of this expansion and causing evermore acceleration.  In that \r\npicture then life dies out because you’ve basically…  It’s perhaps \r\ncounter-intuitive, but as everything gets farther and farther apart you \r\ndo have this floor to the temperature of the universe set by the vacuum \r\nenergy.  It’s a hocking temperature, so as you’re trying to operate \r\ncloser and closer to this cutoff from this vacuum energy any kind of \r\nlife form actually overheats, so as I said it is kind of \r\ncounter-intuitive, but you just can’t…  It’s something you can’t avoid. \r\n Now on the other hand what we wrote in our paper is we were saying well\r\n but if it is not a constant vacuum energy, if it either time changing \r\nso that it is decreasing into the future or that you have this kind of \r\nCardassian Expansion that I was mentioning in either case then life \r\ncould actually continue because you don’t have this floor in the \r\ntemperature.  In fact, instead it is also going down and so you can \r\ncontinue in clever ways to have life continue to exist.

Will life continue to exist as it does here on Earth?

Katie Freese:  No, no, not at all.  Yeah, something \r\nreally very unpleasant from our point of view, so I have no idea, but \r\ncertainly not people, not…  Things will get very, very spread out and \r\ndistant and cold and I’m talking about life in the sense of computation \r\nbeing able to continue.

If you think about our memories or our \r\nthoughts as a type of computation then is there some way you could have a\r\n molecular cloud, just like the kind I was talking about for the \r\nformation of stars where the different pieces of it communicate in some \r\nway and so you have intelligence of a completely different type than \r\nwhat we’re… than what we enjoy.  So these bodies that we enjoy are not \r\ngoing to make it.

Recorded May 7, 2010
Interviewed by David Hirschman

Molecular clouds that communicate with one another may continue to have a type of intelligence in the distant future, but "these bodies that we enjoy are not going to make it."

Car culture and suburban sprawl create rifts in society, claims study

New research links urban planning and political polarization.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Canadian researchers find that excessive reliance on cars changes political views.
  • Decades of car-centric urban planning normalized unsustainable lifestyles.
  • People who prefer personal comfort elect politicians who represent such views.
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller on ​the multiple dimensions of space and human sexuality

Science and the squishiness of the human mind. The joys of wearing whatever the hell you want, and so much more.

Flickr / 13winds
Think Again Podcasts
  • Why can't we have a human-sized cat tree?
  • What would happen if you got a spoonful of a neutron star?
  • Why do we insist on dividing our wonderfully complex selves into boring little boxes
Keep reading Show less