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Ultimate fate of the Universe

Either the Universe will continue in its present form forever, or it will cease to exist in its present form at some time. Many religions have postulated an end to the Universe: see Eschatology. This article is about scientific theories of the end of the Universe.

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Scientific ideas of the end of the Universe

Some cosmological theories postulate that the Universe will come to an end after some finite lifespan, or settle down into a state where life as we know it will cease to exist.

However, there need not be a 'last moment', just as there need not be a 'first moment' discontinuity in the Big Bang theory of the creation of the Universe.

The alternatives to these theories are theories where the Universe continues to exist or evolve forever, see steady-state Universe and oscillatory Universe[?].

Established scientific theories

Some of the possible scenarios envisaged are:

Robert Frost's poem "Fire and Ice[?]" which states "Some say the world will end in fire, / Some say in ice" has often been cited in relation to these theories.

Some mainstream physical theories make the following long-term predictions (see the article 1 E19 s and more):

The following times all assume that the Universe is "open":

  • 1014 years -- the estimated time until low-mass stars cool off
  • 1015 years -- the estimated time until planets detach from stars
  • 1019 years -- the estimated time until stars detach from galaxies
  • 1020 years -- the estimated time until orbits decay by gravitational radiation
  • 1031 years -- proton decay
  • 1064 years -- the estimated time until black holes decay by the Hawking process
  • 1065 years -- the estimated time until all matter is liquid at zero temperature
  • 10100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years (101026) -- the estimated time until all matter decays to iron
  • 1010,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years (101076) -- the estimated time until all matter collapses into black holes

Recent scientific theories

In 2003, New Scientist magazine reported a preprint by Robert R. Caldwell, Marc Kamionkowski and Nevin N. Weinberg which puts forward the hypothesis that the end of the Universe may possibly occur as a "Big Rip", which will shred the physical structure of the Universe.

Transhumanist theories

To do: see Omega point

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See also:

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