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This Is What the End of All Time Looks Like

Feel like having your tiny human mind blown? Check out predictions for the next 10^10^10^76.66 years

smithsonian.com

Slices of expansion of universe without an initial singularity. Photo: Gnixon

Got a few hours to spare? Feel like being drastically humbled and also a bit confused? Check out Wikipedia’s timeline of the far future article. The page dedicates itself to scientifically-based predictions starting roughly 8,000 years from now and stretchng until the farthest possible reaches of future time. As Kottke.org points out, the article may not be the longest on the site, but it contains deliciously enticing detours (Pangaea Ultima! Roche limit! The Degenerate Era! The Big Rip scenario!) that keep readers scrolling for hours.

Here are a few bleak but fascinating highlights for the coming years that, sadly (fortunately?), none of us will live to see (unless the whole cryopreservation thing works out, of course).

  • 50,000 years: Niagara Falls erodes away the remaining 32 km to Lake Erie and ceases to exist.
  • 100,000 – 1 million years: Time by which humanity will be a Type III civilization capable of harnessing all the energy of the galaxy.
  • 50 million years: Africa’s collision with Eurasia closes the Mediterranean Basin and creates a mountain range similar to the Himalayas.
  • 100 million years: Earth will have likely been hit by a meteorite comparable in size to the one that triggered the K–Pg extinction 65 million years ago (assuming we aren’t still around and don’t vaporize it).
  • 230 million years: Beyond this time, the orbits of the planets become impossible to predict.
  • 600 million years: Thanks to the sun’s increasing luminosity messing with the carbon cycle, all plants that utilize C3 photosynthesis (~99 percent of present-day species) will die. (Talk about putting climate change into perspective . . .)
  • 1.3 billion years: Eukaryotic life dies out due to carbon dioxide starvation. We’re coming full circle: only prokaryotes remain.
  • 20 billion years: The end of the universe; game over for Earth.
  • 110–120 trillion years: Time by which all stars in the universe will have exhausted their fuel.
  • 10^10^26 years (a lot of years): Low estimate for the time until all matter collapses into black holes, assuming no proton decay.
  • 10^10^56 years (more years than you can possibly imagine): Estimated time for random quantum fluctuations to generate a new Big Bang
  • 10^10^10^76.66 years (we give up): Scale of an estimated Poincaré recurrence time, or the time in which history repeats itself arbitrarily many times due to properties of statistical mechanics, or the time scale when it will first be somewhat similar (for a reasonable choice of “similar”) to its current state again. This post gets rewritten?

More from Smithsonian.com:

The History of Keeping Time 
Why Time Is a Social Construct 

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