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Does Entropy Spell the End of Time Itself?

Updated on March 9, 2011

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.

Nowhere is the action of Entropy - the law that explains how all matter eventually degrades into its lowest common denominator - more observable with the right telescopes than in the universe.

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.



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    • profile image

      diogenese 7 years ago

      I heard that! Cheers, Bob

    • profile image

      Nutty professors 2 7 years ago

      This one you got rite about the world coming to an end one day.There is one thing for sure,ain't no Bruce Willis going up in a ship to save the day and thats a fact!!!

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 7 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Lovely comment...thanks. Bob

    • crystolite profile image

      Emma 7 years ago from Houston TX

      Wonderful research work that i really gained and learn t from.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 7 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Excellent point, dio re your comment to me, and one that I overlooked.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 7 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Hanna: Yes, fun to debate these things. It seems science has it right this time...Bob

      Bobbi. It's over everyone's head! Pondering the imponderable (unponderable?). With all this knowledge and a dime you can make a phone call! Bob

    • BobbiRant profile image

      BobbiRant 7 years ago from New York

      I'll have to admit here that some of this was over my head, but I understood the crux of what you are saying. I guess as I've gotten older I worry less because I figure all will take care of itself, I simply need to just enjoy each day as it comes. Great hub for some good debating.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      A fascinating topic and one of those you can argue or debate till the cows come home. Thank you, Bob, for a wonderful read.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 7 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Genna. Except that it is useful to us to measure change...Bob

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 7 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      "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 don't. Interesting hub, dio. The universe is both unpredictable and unimaginably violent. And we still haven’t the slightest concept of time.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 7 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Both are true...Bob

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 7 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      It's not that the universe is so vast, it's that we are so damn atomically small. Yet even one grain of sand on the beach is an essential part of the whole beach.

      Life goes on...

    • profile image

      diogenese 7 years ago

      Well, it's fun to theorize, but we shall certainly not be around to see the last days i am sure. Bob

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 7 years ago from South Africa

      I’ve given up on this and similar topics. One should, of course, stay informed, or sort of, but knowing there are no answers to our questions… just theories and speculations. So Carpe Die: Grab the day and enjoy the opportunity to live and love. Thanks for a thought-provoking hub. Voted up!


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