Date: Fri Jan 04 2002 - 08:09:38 MST
<<Life and intelligence could sustain themselves indefinitely in such a
universe, even as the stars winked out and the galaxies were all swallowed by
black holes, Dr. Freeman Dyson, a physicist at the Institute for Advanced
Study, argued in a landmark paper in 1979. "If my view of the future is
correct," he wrote, "it means that the world of physics and astronomy is also
inexhaustible; no matter how far we go into the future, there will always be
new things happening, new information coming in, new worlds to explore, a
constantly expanding domain of life, consciousness, and memory."
Now, however, even Dr. Dyson admits that all bets are off. If recent
astronomical observations are correct, the future of life and the universe
will be far bleaker.
In the last four years astronomers have reported evidence that the expansion
of the universe is not just continuing but is speeding up, under the
influence of a mysterious "dark energy," an antigravity that seems to be
embedded in space itself. If that is true and the universe goes on
accelerating, astronomers say, rather than coasting gently into the night,
distant galaxies will eventually be moving apart so quickly that they cannot
communicate with one another. In effect, it would be like living in the
middle of a black hole that kept getting emptier and colder.
In such a universe, some physicists say, the usual methods of formulating
physics may not all apply. Instead of new worlds coming into view, old ones
would constantly be disappearing over the horizon, lost from view forever.
Cosmological knowledge would be fragmented, with different observers doomed
to seeing different pieces of the puzzle and no single observer able to know
the fate of the whole universe or arrive at a theory of physics that was more
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