Monday, May 7, 2012

In the long run...

...we are all dead, as Mr Keynes put it.

But in the long long run, the Earth is dead too.

For a thoroughly fascinating description of how, Wikipedia has this amazing 'history of the far future'. Gaze, reader, into the abyss:

600 million
As weathering of Earth's surfaces increases with the Sun's luminosity, carbon dioxide levels in its atmosphere decrease. By this time, they will fall to the point at which C3 photosynthesis is no longer possible. All plants which utilize C3 photosynthesis (~99 percent of species) will die.

1 billionThe Sun's luminosity increases by 10%, causing Earth's surface temperatures to reach an average of 47°C and the oceans to boil away. Pockets of water may still be present at the poles, allowing abodes for simple life.

14.4 billionSun becomes a black dwarf as its luminosity falls below three trillionths its current level, while its temperature falls to 2239 K, making it invisible to human eyes.
Read on.

If Isaac Asimov's brilliant story 'The Last Question' is the death of the universe written as a dramatic ode, this is the same story told as a coroner's report.

Asimov was correct though, that in the end the only question that matters is whether entropy can be decreased. The Earth's oceans boiling away may sound pretty darn scary, but if human beings are still around in a billion years time, it's a pretty darn good bet that they'll have figured out how to live on all sorts of other planets. The chances that humans could be confined to earth for a billion years and not nuke each other out of existence is pretty damn low.

I guess it's my nod to irrationality that reading this kind of thing fills me with foreboding, even though I'll be millions or billions of years dead.

Look upon the fate of your works, ye mighty, and despair!

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