In The Five Ages of the Universe - Inside the Physics of Eternity, authors Fred C. Adams and Greg Laughlin go not just past the death of our planet, the sun, or our galaxy. They go all the way to "the end", meaning a future so unimaginably far away that itís hard to wrap your mind around it. This future has no matter in it and no energy; it is just space, all at the same temperature. It is what's known as The Dark Era, and it leads to a series of fascinating thought experiments about how our universe came into being, and how it may be reborn again after literally fading into non-existence.
The authors postulate that there are five ages to the universe, the Primordial Age, the Stelliferous Age (the one we are currently in), the Degenerate Age, the Black Hole Era (where the massive stellar object will become the primary source of heat and light in the universe, paradoxically enough), and finally The Dark Era, where the very building blocks of matter, protons themselves, are decaying, leaving the universe with literally nothing to work with.
Yet, in the midst of all of this, Adams and Laughlin still find a way to speculate on how life may actually evolve to survive in each one of these eras, even the Dark Era. Though it may seem impossible, it is certainly on the forefront of scientific speculation, and it makes for a fascinating read as you're left to imagine just what forms life would take in a universe that has nothing left in it at all.
The book is compulsively readable and given the nature of the topic, it is no surprise, At times it almost reads like science fiction and there's no doubt that some people would almost call it such, since there's no way to know what's going to happen 100 trillion years in the future. Believe it or not, that barely brings us to the 14th cosmological decade. Since each decade is 10 times longer than the one before, by the time the Dark Era begins around Decade 100 or so, well get out the calculator and do the math, because it is so far out there the date probably can't even be written in a reasonable amount of space.
Throughout the book, we are introduced to the fundamentals of cosmology and astronomy in a way that ties in with the ideas that the authors are trying to get across. And, at the end, where everything is (literally) at its darkest, there is a ray of hope cast that in the fundamentals of quantum mechanics, a new universe and therefore a new beginning may be born out of the ashes of the old. Pretty heady stuff, but it is par for the course for this book, which goes out on a very distant limb, yet comes back to the point where it may have literally started from.
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