- Education and Science»
Does Entropy Spell the End of Time Itself?
A red giant star. The fate of our sun.
"That's all, Folks!" But there's time for "one for the road."
If things didn’t change, we would have no idea of the passing of time. In fact, all time does is measure change. Time marches in one direction only - relentlessly forward - or backwards you might say, as all substances degrade to a primal state; but in one direction only. You can’t get the toothpaste back into the tube; the ice back in the glacier; your own cells back to their youthful health, or heat to move in any direction except to a place of lower heat, without artificial encouragement.
Astronomers explain how stars eventually consume their atomic/hydrogen/helium/carbon fuel and become unstable. Depending on the star’s size, it may become a super-nova. The fate of our own sun differs - it lacks the volume to reach super-nova - it will be to become a Red Giant in about 6 billion years. This will spell the end for Earth as we know it. Even if it is not consumed altogether by the expanding zone of influence of our dying sun - to more than 250 times greater than now - life will not continue. In fact, life as we know it, will have been exterminated many billions of years previously as the sun’s increasing heat boils all the water away in about one billion year’s time.
Suns - huge stars - are dying all over the universe. Really, the lamps are going out. Stars are becoming red and white giants; red or white dwarfs, destroying many planets around them in the process. Really huge stars are becoming Black Holes, disappearing from sight or detection. In billions more years, the universe will de completely. Entropy describes its fate as becoming pure energy - photons; finally a stable state, a “Heat Death.” As change is eliminated, so is time, as there is nothing to record its passing.
This is as far as science can go.
Whether or not photons will eventually prove to just being another weigh-station themselves, perhaps containing their own little universes of even tinier entities; whether somehow - like mutating viruses - photons will be able to conjure themselves back into being atoms - atoms, molecules, and the whole cycle can start again. Well, scientists will tell me that is a naïve view and pure energy is in a constant - and final - state.
Me? Naw!! I don’t believe that can be the end of everything: of life, of our world, of the universe itself…do you?
What has happened to the theory of expanding and contracting universes; of the “Big-Bang” theory? We still haven’t explained where that tiny, immensely heavy bit of matter, the “Singularity,” came from to explode and start all the stars and planets expanding, as they formed from the cosmic dust cloud.
How do we know there are not neighboring universes - perhaps billions of them - where we can borrow a few molecules to get us going again?
We still haven’t found for sure what combination of materials and events happened to kick-start life itself.
And to say, “Sorry, that’s all, folks!” What’s the point of more physicists and astronomers if we know it’s all for nowt? If we know that, no matter what we do; what we study and observe, one day very soon (in geological time), everything we are familiar with and all we are not, will become just sub-microscopic motes of energy.
Won’t be worth living, will it? There’s always religion, of course, doesn’t work for me, but I can understand people turning to metaphysics when ordinary scientific explanations and predictions are so depressing.
The universe is 13.7 billion years old.
The Solar System takes 250 million years to pass around the Milky Way, our home galaxy. Since the first evidence of Man was discovered, the solar system has only completed one tenth of one percent of this journey!
Among other things, the Second Law of Thermodynamics proves that matter moves from order to disorder: it’s easy to destroy and hard to build.
The Arrow of Time can only proceed in one direction, guaranteeing the future is always different.
High Entropy. Matter can be arranged in many ways. (Sand Dunes, etc.)
Low Entropy. Difficult to rearrange any structure. (Rocks, etc.)
After a period as a Red Giant, our sun will become a White Dwarf Star. It will be like a full moon.
Red Dwarfs will be the last “living” stars and will loose final power slowly (Like Proxima Centauri can be seen doing in our night sky).
The eventual fate of all stars will be to become Black Dwarfs. None have reached that stage yet. They will have lost all their atoms as radiation. At this stage, and taking untold trillions of years to complete, all matter and light will have become just photons; they will be devoid of change; time will cease and the Universe will be dead - for eternity.
Probably, the one outstanding fact that emerges is that only one creature, Homo sapiens, or “Thinking Man,” has evolved so far to be able to contemplate the wonders of the universe and its eventual fate.