Cosmically speaking, we are over the hill

This entire universe is nearing the point where it's time to throw it a party full of black balloons and cheap Grim Reaper decorations, according to recent research by an international team of astronomers. They studied the rate at which stars are born and found that that rate is declining. In fact, most of the stars that will ever exist already do. We're only likely to increase the total by about 5% between now and the end of everything. So, you know. Have a great rest of your day.


    1. He’s working on the new Republican message: We used to make all kinds of stars, but the production rate has decreased twenty-fold because unions.

      1. “We used to make all kinds of stars, but now we’re running out. So we simply can’t afford to make Puerto Rico a state.”

  1. You don’t have to think of maturing to full size as bad news. Look, most of the stars have already shown up! So get ready, now we can spend the next few billion years decorating them.
    </white beret>

  2. Oh, no, peak stars!  We will run out of stars in just few billion, trillion, quadrillion years or so. DON’T PANIC and remember where your towel is.

  3. I confess, whatever my day to day opinions of the daily newsfeed of humanity, whenever I look up at night sky, I don’t ever want _that_ to stop.

  4. Will the universe now wear an onion on its belt (which was the style 7 1/2 billion years ago) and tell long rambling stories about the time it went to Galactoville (which is what they called the Andromeda galaxy in those days) because it needed some new mesons for its nebulas clusters.  In those days nebula clusters all looked like horseheads. . . 

  5. Set off nova bombs in Population II stars in globular clusters as they are nearing the galactic disk to create expanding shells of gas which will collide and create new stellar nurseries.

  6. Heat-death may mean nothing but the universe operates on a new set of physics, being composed of superfluids and quantum compression waves and neat stuff… similar to the situation in the first few moments of the big bang, where physics wasn’t what it is now.

    Maybe that whole starry universe will exist only as the theoretical physics of a superfluidic entangled mass in the future, wherein its equivalent of a neuron firing takes longer than the entire existence of our ‘classical physics’…

    And maybe they’ll muse about the great ‘thermodynamic event’ that will fuck up everything in the future… a collapse of a probability wave wherein a deliciously cooked turkey just appears… and annihilates everything they’ve ever known.

    1. So the Universe is going to buy a sports car, drive it ten mph under the speed limit and start dating younger chicks?


  7. If we’re talking about stages of growth, well, most of the expansion of space happened before 10 to the -32 seconds after BANG! We’ve been at the top of that plateau for some time now.

  8. I was going to post the link to Ethan Siegel’s blog on this… but two people already beat me too it.

    Also, it’s worth reading the comments on the blog post, but skip all of the comments by “Wow” and “OKThen” and those that answer them; you can find junk like what they’re saying all over the Internet when people who think they know something about science but are wrong try to talk about science.  Instead, just read the comments by Ethan, and the commants by David Sobral that respond to Ethan.

    Myself, I’m convinced by what Ethan is saying, and think that Sobral is ignoring his primary point.

    One of the most important things that Sobral says is: “Just to clarify: the “prediction” for the future is obviously not *AT ALL* a “conclusion” of the paper we are discussing. It is a mere curiosity. Something nice to play with and make an interesting guess.”

    In other words, the thing that’s getting all the press was a sideline of the paper.  The real point of the paper– and something that Ethan agrees with and says is good work– has to do with measuring and putting an empirical model on the decline in the rate of star formation up to now.

  9. I fully expect life to have completely organised all of the baryonic matter in the observable universe, long before the last star splutters out.
    The key word being ‘observable’. If all of the other galaxies have fled beyond our horizon before then, our galaxy may be the only one in the observable universe.
    Of course you could just wait around for long enough for some truly improbable events, such as the spontaneous fluctuation out of the mean energy background of new super clusters of galaxies, to transpire.
    Or hope that a physics of profligate singularities engenders a new black-hole chemistry.
    Perhaps mind itself will transcend energy and matter, binding to higher dimensional brane interactions.
    Anyway, here we are, barely-hairy apes scratching our asses and setting off nukes.
    Whatever will the future hold, I wonder?
    Whatever it is, I bet it’s Really Weird.

  10. I love that science can allegedly figure this stuff out about something as complex as the cosmos (not even knowing what most of that is comprised of except to call it “dark matter”) but can’t quite figure out what constitutes reality and human perception.

    1. My guess would be distance.  Compared to stars, quasars, and black holes, everything going on in the human mind is just fuzzy.  It’s a common precept that it’s more difficult to look inward than to look outward, and unless we start dissecting still-living humans in order to find out what makes them tick…

  11.  Today my 13 year old son came home and told me that we know more about the universe than we do about our own unexplored ocean depths <>

  12. Well, even if star production is nearly over, we can at least take comfort in the fact that the red dwarves will still be burning for another ten trillion years or so. That’s a pretty long time to at least still have stars around. And most stars are red dwarves anyway, so at least we’ll have a lot of stars, instead of just a handful.

    We’ll run out of heavier elements though. Or not run out so much as hit the bottom of the barrel.

  13. Maggie, I love your posts and I love your dark sense of humor, but in this case I just can’t bring myself to be pessimistic along with you. :)

    The universe still has untold trillions of years’ worth of energy left in it. Nothing’s happening that would harm its ability to sustain Life And Awesome Things. We’ve just got all the stars we’re every going to have… and I’m no astronomer, but I feel fairly comfortable that we have more than we, the collective sapient species of this universe, will ever need.

    So to me, this news sounds a bit more like “Okay, the last of the placenta’s out. Kid looks healthy, let’s hope it has a good life.” :)

  14. The first 15 billion years were the worst. And the next 15 billion years. They were the worst too. After that I went into a bit of a decline.

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