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Transitioning from the Stelliferous Era to the Degenerate Era

  1. Dec 27, 2012 #1
    Approximately 100 trillion years hence the process of new stars being created will end, and slowly the remaining stars will start to peter out, until eventually all stars disappear leading into the black hole era. But what interests me is the transition, undoubtedly during the late Stelliferous Era there will still be some life in the universe. I am hoping even our distant descendants however unrecognizable they may be could be part of this crowded universe. What will happen as we realize stars are dying and not being replaced? How long will it take to see the universe go from a presumably prosperous Stelliferous Era to a Degenerated Universe? Will we see an organic transition or will a crowded universe lead to large conflicts for what little is left over a shorter time period?

    I guess what I'm asking is how long could such a transition be and how rough could/will it be for a universe that I'm assuming for the story is overpopulated and has faster than light technology and advanced technology?
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  3. Dec 28, 2012 #2


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    If our distant descendants still live in trillions of years, we have no idea how their technology would look like. Interstellar travel is a minimal requirement, but everything is possible, including the generation of new universes.

    Assuming no intelligent life messes around with the evolution of the universe, the transition between those eras is very slow, at the timescale of tens of trillions of years itself. The rate of star formation will just continue to drop.
  4. Dec 28, 2012 #3
    Certainly at some point an alien race might start to feel crowded without new stars?
  5. Dec 28, 2012 #4


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    Crowded in which way?
    And why shouldn't it feel so long before, due to reproduction?

    I would not expect that the typical timescale increases in the future - so trillions of years are an extremely long timescale, and any change in the life will occur much quicker than that. There is no "oh crap, we are running out of stars soon!"-moment.
  6. Dec 28, 2012 #5
    Crowded as in any habitable planet is going to be settled and most people will want kids. Something that will continue when people have to be evacuated when there star gets old. Eventually when people move to the few habitable planets that remain, assuming they don't kill refugees or enact some sort of one child policy there will be overpopulation. Even if the period over which this happens will be several trillion years eventually the population will be staying constant while the planets that population can live on decreases.
    I understand what you are saying but people aren't just going to decide "hey when we start running low on planets we aren't going to be able to support this population, lets start culling excess population" because it will seem like trillions of years until the high population becomes a liability (that is until it isn't trillions of years) and that would be obviously not acceptable. (I realize I am assuming that we are going to have certain cultural rules like we have now; and that populations will be big in that era, etc)
  7. Dec 29, 2012 #6


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    Even a rate of 0.00001% population growth per year gives an overpopulation problem long before the universe runs out of stars - it corresponds to doubling every ~7 million years, or settling every star in the whole observable universe in less than a billion years (that needs FTL travel, obviously).
    At this timescale, expect technologies which will change the definition of "population" - is an accurate computer simulation of a mind a person? And if the computer simulates 1000 different minds? What about minds which are stored on a hard drive, but not executed at the moment?

    In addition, black holes can be used as very effective power source, and release much more energy per fuel than stars. Why would you want stars at all? It might be efficient to disturb the formation of stars to use the interstellar gas as fuel in black hole power plants instead.
  8. Dec 29, 2012 #7


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    Homo sapiens won't be around in 100 trillion years. For discussions why see this thread asking about half a billion years https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=563914

    The idea of overpopulating the universe strikes me as a very odd one, long before that gets an issue something as simple over population is likely to be a solved problem. If we don't sort it out on Earth in the next century we're in for trouble but the demographic transition fueled by changes in modern society (from medical technologies to women's rights) seems to point to a way put.

    As MFB points out if there is some far future civilisation which considers this a problem then their technology is going to be so vastly ahead of what we can understand that there's little point discussing it. It will certainly make for very hard fiction to write.
  9. Dec 29, 2012 #8
    I realize humanity will be around in several trillion years, that is why I said our *descendants* I believe humans will be able to branch off Earth and begin to settle the universe and then it will nearly be impossible to kill us off, we will evolve over several million years into other forms, and that is part of the advantage of this concept, you can imagine that it will be anything, and as we know from some good science fiction writers it is possible to write an alien species.
  10. Dec 29, 2012 #9
    I've not known Earth-like planets to orbit blackholes. :wink:
    EDIT: at least not for long. :)
  11. Dec 29, 2012 #10


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    Every earth-like planet around a massive star and far away enough to survive the supernova will orbit a black hole afterwards. And if you have planet-moving equipment, you can even design its parameters.

    Orbits around black holes are like orbits around stars.
    Neglecting the gravitational influence of other planets, they are stable for every reasonable timescale.

    Planets orbiting a black hole are a poor method to harvest its potential anyway. I would go for a Dyson sphere/swarm or even a Matrioshka brain.
    This is "just" an engineering problem - it is feasible with current physics. It might be possible some centuries in the future. A trillion years has 10 billion centuries.

    Humans influence evolution in a significant way - we massively change local ecosystems and even the global climate. We can add completely new properties to existing species and even create completely new species with genetic engineering. Our culture and contraception reversed natural selection (humans more successful in society tend to have less children), and we might be able to mess around with our own genes in a controlled way in a few decades. We could completely control our own evolution within 100 years.

    Computing power has increased exponentially for ~50 years - if that trend continues for ~15-30 years, computers have enough capacity to simulate a human brain. With the right software and a good brain scanning software (both are not easy), it might be possible to load a brain in such a computer. Imagine the consequences...

    Short version: Every hard science fiction for humans after 2200 needs a catastrophic event which seriously reduced (or inverted) scientific progress, otherwise it is pure speculation.
  12. Nov 30, 2013 #11
    Bit of an older topic, but on par with what I am attempting to do. I have written a treatment, a teaser trailer pitch, and am in development of the first episode of a tv series that takes place during the degenerate era. So I've been gathering information regarding technologies adapted and/ or forgotten, which will have an impact on the plot.

    Has anyone read the Five Ages of the Universe by Adams? What are the thoughts, and what kinds of ideas do people have about the technologies that would have to exist for life to continue into this darker era of the universe?
  13. Nov 30, 2013 #12
    You'd see most people living around red dwarf stars, and probably not venturing far from those stars because by then most other stars have gone out and are moving away from you so fast that their light no longer reaches you. Since there would be a lack of new resources coming in from farther away I'd expect to see the civilization heavily focused on recycling what they have. There would likely be an Earth-like planet around the star given that it is unlikely a Dyson Sphere could be constructed (even if possible it would be fairly wasteful). However there would likely be massive solar arrays to collect sun light as any other source of energy is probably going to be used up (especially given that they could have been cut off from other civilizations for millennia or even millions/billions of years), except perhaps black holes, but if you're in orbit of a red dwarf star you might have to go quite a distance to find a black hole to harness for energy. Assuming that the planet is not very young (it is possible, if unlikely, that the planet could be one of the last produced at the end of the Stelliferous Era) then the settlements might be underground due to the planet being tidally locked and therefore basically inhospitable or they might have some sort of thing to control the rotation of the planet (which would be massive) so that it stays habitable. They'd also probably be doing something to ensure that there was lots of geological activity because when plate tectonics stop you end up with something like Mars (the carbon cycle stops, all organic material eventually gets buried in the planet's crust) or a planet covered in ocean (because the continents get eroded away, there still wouldn't be any carbon to support life though) - they could perhaps heat the mantle up from the surface although I'm not sure about the logistics or how to do that efficiently. Beyond the systems to control and maintain these projects I am uncertain you'd need much else, so really you can fill in the details as to the tech level outside of those significant technological achievements.

    I'm interested to hear that you've got the idea for a show like that, hopefully it manages to be produced because I'd like to see it.
  14. Dec 1, 2013 #13
    Along with those consideration, the thermal heat degradation and photon decay upon entering the degenerate era, technologies would basically need to require absolute control over the physics and quantum state of surrounding bodies. Red dwarves as far as I am familiar with, would not be the only remaining star life.
    Though it would depend on how far into the era one is discussing, aside from red dwarf stars and black holes, there are the last remnants of other stars having wound down into smaller white dwarfs.

    In terms of how possible it is for a dyson sphere to be constructed, we would have to consider the advancement of the life that could exist during this era. I mean you have to concede to the fact that any life form that figures out how to continue existing on into this time frame, has to be monumentally prepared for it.

    My thought would be that during the Stelliferous Era once it was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that expansion was leading into the Degenerate era, certain sects of life, species, races of intelligence, would possibly gather together to solve the dilemma of how to survive.

    The concepts I've come up with are preliminary and far from complete, but what would help is if anyone who understands the problems with existing during this time, what kind of environmental obstacles would they have to overcome.

    With that, I'm going to embed the teaser pitch I made. It doesn't really say much, but that's the point. It's still in development.

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