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A scholarly paper and a rhymed metric poem about the end of the universe and life

  1. Jul 5, 2008 #1


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    IMHO this is a beautiful scholarly article about the end of the universe
    The Return of a Static Universe and the End of Cosmology
    Lawrence M. Krauss and Robert J. Scherrer
    I encourage anyone who has not already seen it to download the PDF. Just follow the arxiv link and click on PDF. It's free.

    Do you limit your take on cosmology to hard science modeling? Or do you have several channels open at once. Can feelings round out your perception and give extra depth to it, without distorting and mushing things up too much? Any thoughts, favorite poems, other stuff. Here's one I like

    Blackberries for Amelia
    By Richard Wilbur

    Fringing the woods, the stone walls, and the lanes,
    Old thickets everywhere have come alive,
    Their new leaves reaching out in fans of five
    From tangles overarched by this year's canes.

    They have their flowers, too, it being June,
    And here or there in brambled dark-and-light
    Are small, five-petalled blooms of chalky white,
    As random-clustered and as loosely strewn

    As the far stars, of which we are now told
    That ever faster do they bolt away,
    And that a night may come in which, some say,
    We shall have only blackness to behold.

    I have no time for any change so great,
    But I shall see the August weather spur
    Berries to ripen where the flowers were --
    Dark berries, savage-sweet and worth the wait --

    And there will come the moment to be quick
    And save some from the birds,and I shall need
    Two pails, old clothes in which to stain and bleed,
    And a grandchild to talk with while we pick.

    From Berkshires Week, online

    Notice that he has it WRONG, or at least different from the mainstream Lambda CDM model. According to LCDM, our galaxy and its immediate neighbor galaxies, the Local Group, do not get pulled apart.

    Eventually anything left alive in the neighborhood of Sol will see only darkness because all the stars will have burnt out! But they will not have receded. they will still be there, but burnt out and dark. That's the standard view. Of course it might work out differently but this is a la LCDM.

    It is the more distant galaxies which are receding and which will eventually be out of our observable range, or their light so redshifted as to be undetectable.

    Refer to the scholarly paper by Krauss and Scherrer for the straight dope.

    But WILBUR STILL HAS THE GENERAL IDEA RIGHT: we shall have only blackness to behold.

    So I like it. It adds something to the picture for me. You? Comment?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 5, 2008 #2


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    If you are interested in the physics underlying cosmology, you might want to consider some of the points in Krauss' article.

    At some time in the future it will become impossible to estimate the age of the universe. Why?

    At some time in future it becomes impossible for a newly evolved consciousness to determine that the universe is expanding---that distances are increasing according to Hubble law. Why?

    This is long before all the stars have burned out. Newly evolved life-forms, unless they have the benefit of scientific records retained from our era, have no way of discerning the facts about the universe that we take for granted as part of standard cosmology.

    At a certain point the universe, in effect, "covers its tracks" and becomes inscrutable.

    I guess the moral is that now is a really great time to do observational quantitative cosmology----all the clues are in plain sight. We are getting signal emitted by matter that is now some 45 billion LY away, roughly as far as we can ever hope to see (order of magnitude at least.

    Get it while it's hot----it'll be a long cold future. At least if the LCDM standard model is right.

    thanks to Astronuc for the suggestion that we might get something out of a thread featuring the Krauss Scherrer article


    "Blackberries" is a recent poem of his, first published in June of 2003. IMO Wilbur, born in 1921 is our greatest living poet.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2008
  4. Jul 19, 2008 #3
    Just finished the paper Marcus, excellent I thought. My interest in such works makes the common criticism of a fear of a "total rational world, devoid of creativity and art" that I am oft charged with, seem laughable. I think the ramifications of this are quite enlightening. It certainly allows one to look beyond one's own life span, whilst still maintaining the utmost importance of the here and now.

    Many people seem unable to see very far beyond their deaths, much less uphold the importance of present scholarly work. It is either, "That is so far in the future it doesn't matter." or, " Well since we have so much time why does anything matter?"

    The loss of the library of Alexandria was a horrid waste, but at least we have been able to recover. It seems if the bigots keep managing to pull it off, there will come a time when it is too late...

    Thank you for sharing Marcus
  5. Jul 20, 2008 #4


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    I read that paper when it first came out. I think it's very interesting. The main message I got from it (can't remember if they mention this explicitly or not) is the question of what it is that we can't determine about the Universe given the time that we live in. Potentially, cosmologists living in some different epoch might be able to making similar musing about those poor 14th Billennium* cosmologists who didn't have a hope of ever knowing some basic fact known to them.

    * Billennium = 1 Billion years (but I probably just made that up)
  6. Jul 20, 2008 #5
    I definitely got that as well. Maybe a pre-BB event intelligence could have predict the difficulty for an observer to gain knowledge of their universe after such an event. Even if the situation really is as such, at least we are talking about the possibility.

    I think the key, is long term preservation of the knowledge we have managed to gleam. There may be nothing we can do about being late to the party, but at least we can try and protect from being premature; and maybe give future societies a leg up. So they don't have to start from a 'middle-ages' type situation.
  7. Jul 20, 2008 #6


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    Hi RobertM and Wallace,
    I too read the Krauss paper when it came out and am remembering back. I think I probably did not go into it as deeply as either of you. What impressed me most was the pedagogical value because it makes the late universe concrete in a pedagogically brilliant way----by getting you to put yourself in the place of an observer in the late universe, trying to figure out what's going on with only the observational data then available.

    Understanding can often get into sharper focus if you transfer the viewpoint of the observer.

    Kepler at one point converted Tycho observation records of Mars into observations of Earth from the standpoint of an observer on Mars. it was at that point I think that ellipses dawned on him. I can't think why but it's a general technique--put yourself in another's place--that sometimes works.

    So Krauss had me pretending I was an astronomer in Late Time and wondering what it would look like, and what data I could collect. and what information I could extract and it was a shock to think that I couldn't even tell there was expansion.

    RobertM, so glad you liked the Blackberry poem!
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