TECH

Black Holes: Universe To End Sooner Than Thought

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Space is getting to be a nasty place: not only did NASA bomb the moon, but new scientific research suggests the universe will end sooner than previously thought, as a result of the "galaxy-consuming hunger of super massive black holes."

According to Popular Science, physicists have long predicted that the universe will end in "heat death," which occurs when the universe "finally uses up all its energy, with all motion stopping and all the atoms in creation grinding to a halt."

New calculations by Australian physicists suggest that "the end is near-er."

Popular Science explains:

Physicists have always known that black holes contribute to entropy in the universe by breaking down matter and energy in their gravitational maelstroms, but the calculations always measured the rate of this disorder using the destructive power of the smaller, more common black holes.

However, this new calculation takes into account the galaxy-consuming hunger of super massive black holes. And in this new calculation, the physicists discovered that the old theory vastly underestimated how much of the universe has already been eaten.

US News and World Report says that the universe is "messier than scientists had thought--and slightly further along on its gradual journey to death." How much messier? About 100 times.

An analysis by Chas Egan of the Australian National University in Canberra and Charles Lineweaver of the University of New South Wales in Sydney indicates that the collective entropy of all the supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies is about 100 times higher than previously calculated. Because supermassive black holes are the largest contributor to cosmic entropy, the finding suggests that the entropy of the universe is also about 100 times larger than previous estimates, the researchers reported online September 23 at arXiv.org.

What is heat death? Popular Science explains,

Heat death is based on the concept of entropy, which holds that disordered states are more stable than ordered states. We experience entropy in real world examples like a glass window being easier to break than to reassemble or create anew. On the scale of the universe, complex systems like stars, planets and galaxies are the glass window, and the Australian physicists have found that supermassive black holes are breaking them faster than we could have imagined.

Read the original research report here.

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