The End and the Life

The_Ring_NebulaExpanding universe, eternal return? Here it is my (short) fictional take on these speculative dreams.

“Past time is finite, future time is infinite.” E. Hubble.

“Everything has returned: Sirius and the spider, and your thoughts at this hour, and your thought that everything returns.” F. Nietzsche.

***

He didn’t wait for the answer, the conclusion drew itself obvious to him. He said:

“If the universe collapses, then it wouldn’t have time to give birth to your wonderful semi-eternal beings. If, in addition, the universe evolves through recurring cycles of expansion and collapse, then we are possibly talking of eternal return. You know, with the same events repeating over and over again.”

Edwin didn’t agree: “The incredibly high temperatures at the beginning of the expansion would certainly give rise to different histories within each cycle. And even if by any unknown reason, all initial conditions at the beginning of each expansion were the same, quantum fluctuations would quickly create divergent histories. I can’t see how eternal return could take place.”

“No, you didn’t get my point,” Friedrich protested. “I’m not expecting to come back to existence in every cycle. Consider, however, that I’m talking about an infinite number of expansions and collapses. Take ten to any power that you wish. After an amazingly large number of cycles, it’s sure that not only all the initial conditions but also the quantum fluctuations will be by simple chance the same as those of the cycle that we are living right now.”

“This means that every single feature of the history of that universe will be exactly like ours: the solar system will emerge, Earth will condense, life will be born. All creatures will evolve following exactly the same descendent line that brought us here.”

“This also means that we had exactly this same talk in this same room infinite times before and we will have it infinite times more. Is that a curse?” he joked.

Edwin couldn’t disagree anymore. The idea was farfetched, but whenever you take the infinite as a partner, the inconceivable turns into trivial.

He also knew that Friedrich’s speculation rested on a cyclic-universe hypothesis. Take it out and things would go very differently: “Now, Friedrich, just suppose that instead of cycles, the universe will really go on expanding forever. What’s your best bet for the future in this case?”

“Absolute darkness,” Friedrich answered at once. “Given enough time, all the stars will be burnt; even the black holes will have evaporated through quantum emissions. Entropy will be at the maximum, temperature will be the same everywhere. The universe will be completely lifeless.”

“Dark, I agree; lifeless not,” Edwin provoked. “Vacuum fluctuations will still forever be a remaining source of free energy in the universe; and life will feast on it.”

“Fueled by these fluctuations, molecules will slowly move in the ethereal residual clouds between the dead stars, colliding with each other now and then. And if in one of these collisions a photon is emitted quickly enough, a new stable molecule can even appear.”

“Naturally, a simple chemical reaction that takes place within a fraction of a second on Earth will take millions of years to happen in the heat-dead universe. But all that the universe will have in abundance by then is time, isn’t it?”

“It doesn’t matter how improbable it is, it’s just a question of waiting for it. More and more complex molecules will form in the vacuum, until one day one of them will get to the point that it will be able to self-catalyze. At that moment buried in the forgotten future, life will reborn, but on absolutely unthinkable time scales.”

“Playing eons as seconds, the concentration of this molecule will grow. Eventually, one of its daughters will make a wrong copy of itself and branch into a new species. These species will compete and arm-race against each other for the scarce resources. They will evolve following the same Darwinian tools as it happened in the warm universe so many times before.”

“They will evolve and one day they will become conscious of themselves and of their dark universe. With their frozen semi-eternal bodies, they will cry for their dead and maybe tell their children about the hero who once spent half of his life trying to go back home after a long battle.”

“One day, they will even theorize that, in an infinitesimal instant of time–the first trillion years, the universe was full of stars.”

Friedrich was wondering about the frozen semi-eternal beings, when the obvious question stroke him. “Edwin, your scenario would happen only if the universe expanded forever. What would happen if by any chance it came to a collapse?” he asked.

He didn’t wait for the answer, the conclusion drew itself obvious to him. He said:

MB



Categories: Fiction, Physical Sciences, Scientific Culture

Tags: , , , , , ,

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