Students visit Harwell Science and Innovation Campus for a lecture on the fate of the universe
On Friday 19 October, Mr Upstone, Dr Ndwana and a group of Year 10 and 11 students attended a lecture at Harwell Science and Innovation Campus to discover the possibilities for the end of the universe.
Dr Brad Gibson from the University of Hull presented a brief history of the known universe to date, before exploring the most probable ways that humans and then the universe itself might meet their eventual ends.
Starting with the idea of the Big Bang and the evidence which supports it, Dr Gibson showed us that if we scale the history of the universe into one Earth year starting with January 1st, our Milky Way galaxy formed in May of that year, our solar system formed in August and life began almost immediately afterwards with single celled organisms appearing in September. It is not until 26 December that we see the first mammals on Earth, and modern humans do not evolve until 11.54pm on 31 December 31.
He then showed us the most likely ways that humans on Earth might die out. Far from being as depressing as it sounds, Dr Gibson was entertaining as well as educating. If humans manage to survive killing each other, Earth may receive a direct hit from a comet brought to us as a nearby star passes us with a near miss in a million years from now (40 minutes on our Universe-in-a-Year scale). Survive that and we will likely receive a collision from some distant comet every 100 million years or so (every 3 days on our new scale). Assuming we manage to avoid these catastrophes, we can expect our sun to brighten as it comes towards the end of its life, evaporating all the water from Earth within 3 billion years from now. Then, as the stars fade (our sun included) the universe will gradually spread out and cool in what is known as a heat death in a billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion years from now.
Our Universe may have started with a bang but it will go out with a whimper!