Long before humans would ever walk the Earth, before there even was an Earth to walk on, for that matter, we can imagine a Craps Table in the vacuum of space. At this Craps Table was a single shooter who, according to Wizard of Odds, might have rolled the dice some 249 times per hour.
For these purposes, we’re going to conveniently ignore the fact that humans would also not exist yet and, even if a roller and a stickman did exist, the expansion of every oxygen cell in their bodies would cause them to balloon to double their initial size and they would be rendered immobile.
Such things are of no concern to us right now as we are only going to worry about probability. We have to do this because, even if such a table could exist, the shooter, at best, might get one roll off that doesn’t really go anywhere before passing out and eventually being frozen stiff, never to revive.
The Universe would first come into existence about 13.7 billion years ago, give or take perhaps several thousand (or more) human lifetimes of dice rolling, and would eventually culminate in the birth of our very planet some 4.5 million years ago.
In other words, the Earth has existed for roughly (and rounding slightly up) 33% of our Universe’s lifespan. If you could set up a random number generator that goes to 13.7 billion, you would have a roughly 2/3rds likelihood of any randomly selected number reflecting a time when the Earth did not yet exist.
In the context of our Universal Gambling, the probability that you WOULD randomly generate a number that reflects the time that the Earth exists is approximately the same as a one-roll resolved line bet.
As we know, a one roll resolved bet on the Pass Line can occur by way of rolls of 2 or 12 (2/36 combined probability), 3 or 11 (4/36 combined) or 7 (6/36), which results in 12/36 possible first roll outcomes for our 1/3 outcome.
Instead, if we were to roll a point number on the Come Out, then the Earth does not yet exist in the Universe, but the good news is that the odds of our one-roll resolution numbers are short enough that it won’t take very long for a number to be rolled that reflects an extant Earth.
Of course, the ancestors of humans, according to Universe Today originally started to spring up only some six million years ago whereas humans themselves would first begin to appear some 200,000 years ago, give or take a few inconsequential and insignificant lifetimes?
Were they insignificant? In the cosmic sense, yes…in fact, all of humanity’s existence will be inconsequential and insignificant by the time that the known Universe reaches its end. Of course, they were significant from our species’ perspective, particularly for those living today, because, if you are reading this, you would not be alive without every single one of them to precede you and eventually lead to your own conception.
6000000/13700000000 = 0.0004379562
With this decimal, we see that humans, or the ancestors of humans, have existed for 0.0004379562 of the total amount of time that our Universe has existed, or about 0.04379562% of the Universe’s current lifespan.
If you would prefer it to be expressed in the form of odds, then what you end up with is 1/0.0004379562 or about 1 in 2283.33 to randomly pick a number between 1 and 13.7 billion to end up with a number that reflects either the existence of humans, or that of the ancestors of humans.
The Earth’s existence, of about 1 in 3, has much better odds. In fact, you could simply say that any number selected between 9133333333.33 and 13700000000 will reflect the existence of the Earth, because it actually does.
In the case of humans or their ancestors, you’re going to want to pick a number between 13694000000 and 13700000000 in order to hit the right spot.
There are probably cleaner ways to express the probability whilst sticking to our Craps game, but what I am going to do is first take the probability of rolling four consecutive sixes:
(5/36)^4 = 0.00037210886
With that, we are still missing 0.0004379562 - 0.00037210886 = 0.00006584734
There are three ways to roll a four, so we can plug some of this gap by looking at the probability of rolling four consecutive fours, which would look like:
(3/36)^4 = 0.0000482253
With that, we are missing:
0.00006584734 - 0.0000482253 = 0.00001762204
We’re getting close now, but let’s have some fun and play two games at once. After all, you can’t have a casino with only a single Craps Table, can you?
Actually, if we look at the amount of time that the Universe has existed, especially since we are dealing with fairly rough numbers anyway, and multiply by the amount left that we need, we get:
13700000000 * 0.00001762204 = 241421.948
Actually, some sources would have us believe that humans have existed, as modern homosapiens, for 300,000 years roughly, so we are just going to split the difference and use this number. With that, let’s put a Roulette wheel in our casino, and because our casino doesn’t suck, it only has one zero as opposed to two (or two and a, ‘Special Symbol,’ that’s functionally just a third zero).
What we are going to do is put a chip on 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, so we are effectively covering the first six numbers. I guess, since we exist NOW, it might be more fitting to cover 36, 35, 34, 33, 32 and 31, so go ahead and visualize it however you like. The probability of us getting any one of these six of 37 numbers is 6/37, obviously, but we need them to come six times in a row:
(6/37)^6 = 0.00001818432
That actually gives us a slight overage of 0.00001818432-0.00001762204 = 5.6228e-7 which is negligible and we may well have shorted ourselves nearly ten thousand years anyway. That’ll balance that out a little bit.
Our player is going to walk into our casino, stride up to the single-zero Roulette wheel, and cover either the first six or last six numbers…really, it can be any six, but I’m sure that, with the existence of modern humans hanging in the balance, we at least want a cool optic. If our player can win six consecutive spins covering six numbers, congratulations to us, for we exist!
On the other hand, if our player fails at Roulette, then he’s going to go try his luck at Craps. If he can either roll four consecutive sixes OR four consecutive fours (which would also be two consecutive, though very specific, Pass Line wins—and I hope he’s taking Odds), then we don’t exist quite yet, but at least the ancestors of the modern homo sapiens do and we won’t be far behind.
Naturally, our player is going to fail to accomplish any set of wins:
1/(0.0000482253+0.00001818432+0.00037210886) = 2280.40560571
Which comes out to something like 2279.4 failures for every success. Originally, we wanted it to look like 1 in 2283.33 as opposed to 1 in 2280.41, but again, the initial number is itself based on a rough estimate, so I think this analogy is pretty good for a mediocre gambling writer with a mediocre intellect, such as my own.
IN THE INTERIM…
Of course, there have been a great number of events that have occurred throughout human history, in fact, what we term, ‘Modern Civilizations,’ have only been around for five thousand, or six thousand years:
Relating that back to gambling we end up with:
13700000000/6000 = 2283333.33333
Of course, I’ve decided to go with just the high end on this one because science/history are kind of divided on not only the specific times, but also, on what, ‘Modern Civilization,’ might actually refer to specifically. The link above refers to certain characteristics of modern civilization, which might include such things as:
Characteristics of Civilization
All civilizations have certain characteristics. These include: (1) large population centers; (2) monumental architecture and unique art styles; (3) shared communication strategies; (4) systems for administering territories; (5) a complex division of labor; and (6) the division of people into social and economic classes.
I’m going to go with the high end of the range because I don’t think that all of these things are strictly necessary for something to qualify as, ‘Civilization,’ and tend to think that #2, in particular, is in there out of a bias for having something observable to us today.
Civilizations, at that point in time, were part of our evolution as a species as working together helped ensure survival, and by ensuring survival, we could continue to evolve as individuals as the ultimate goal of animals is to carry on their genetic line. Naturally, we carry on our genetic lines and evolve and change to this day, despite the fact that we have the intellectual wherewithal to understand that there’s ultimately not going to be a point to any of it, but more on that later.
Large population centers are undoubtedly important as they help ensure survival against larger single animals, packs of animals—and, perhaps most importantly—other large groups of humans who want to come and kill all of you, rape the women and steal all of your stuff to help further the survival and continued propagation of their own collective.
The only downsides to these large population centers, at least put in simple terms, are threefold:
1.) The first major downside to these large population centers is that, by concentrating humans all in one place, single environmental (or weather) destruction events on a major scale can take out large swaths of humans.
For example, many readers will be familiar with the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. which was singularly responsible for the destruction of cities such as Pompeii and Herculaneum. The remains of some 2,000 men, women and children were eventually discovered under the ash of Pompeii and it is believed that the stayed behind, for one reason or another, to wait out the eruption rather than flee the city.
Using the lower end of population bounds and calling it 100 A.D. would put the Earth at about 180 million inhabitants around this time. I’m using the lower end of population bounds because I am rounding the year up by about a fifth of a century.
The current world population is about 7.9 billion, which fortunately, is a much more reliable estimate than the fairly wide ranges that we see in early history. Given our assumption of some 180 million inhabitants (at a minimum) around this time, this represents 7900000000/180000000 about 43.89 people now for every one person then. Not that all else would be equal, but if all else were equal, the Earth would have nearly 90,000 more occupants just on the number of people who remained in the city of Pompeii and died of various reasons, with eventual suffocation from the toxic gasses likely being the most frequent cause of death.
Of course, the better-known of the Velsuivius eruptions wasn’t actually the most serious. The most powerful eruption would occur just after 2000 B.C., in the very early days of what are considered modern civilizations, in an explosion, known as the Avellino Eruption, that would bury lands and villages as much as 25km away from the volcano itself. Given the roughly 6.5 fold increase in the Earth’s human population between the two mentioned eruptions, and again unsafely assuming that all else remains equal, we end up with 6.5 people who did not exist at that time for every person who perished due to the earlier eruption—again, VERY generally speaking. It seems that most escaped, but for each person who died (and all else equal) we are running about 300 people short today.
There are so many variables as to make the odds incalculable, but what we can know is that, for you to exist today…someone in your ancestral chain (two different people, obviously) survived BOTH of these major eruptions…and untold other events along the way, or were just never anywhere near Mount Vesuvius in the first place.
2.) As mentioned, you become an attractive target for other large groups of humans who want the stuff that belongs to your own collective. Of course, isolated from other people, you are simply an easy target for a group—so that’s kind of a decent tradeoff, probably.
3.) A better known mass extinction event, of course, is the Bubonic Plague. As with all of the good pandemics, it was believed to have started in China and I feel no need to make a big presentation here. If you don’t know what the Bubonic Plague is, then all I can say is, “Google is your friend.”
In any event, if you’re of European ancestry and have strong reason to believe that your ancestors were around in the middle ages, then congratulations, because if that Pass Line bet had resolved on the Come Out roll for any one of your ancestors, you wouldn’t be here! It’s a good thing that there was a point number on the Come Out in your ancestral line!
Unfortunately, I’m not certain how accurate Ancestry.com is at all and am pretty confident it can’t follow the geographical path of your ancestors all the way back prior to Anno Domini, so it’s really impossible to put a hard number on the improbability of the event of your own existence for anyone reading this. Suffice it to say that, even if we accept the eventual existence of humans as a given, (it wasn’t—that required a great multitude of events itself) the fact that YOU PERSONALLY exist, in a priori terms, is remarkably unlikely.
Fortunately for you, much like Patricia DeMauro’s 154-roll hand at Craps, the event of your own existence has already happened, and therefore, operates with a probability of 1. Congratulations!
What sorts of events had to take place in order for humans to come into existence? For that, we have to dust off our telescopes and look back to the Universe, at least the observable Universe, taken as a whole.
Discovery is kind enough to provide us with the nine base conditions to even have a habitable planet in the first place. Of course, some people will point to the existence of water on the Earth, but even that is a little bit of an, “After the fact,” sort of thing.
One factor that people might not take into consideration is the existence of our moon, which has a bit more of a stabilizing presence than people might realize, per Discovery:
The moon: The Earth has a slight tilt and teeters like a top as it spins, which can cause drastic shifts in climate over the course of thousands of years. But because of the moon's stabilizing effect on our orbit, our climate is a lot more steady. Plus, the moon causes the tides, and some biologists think life began in tidal pools.
With that, we have something that exists before the fact and another factor that comes after the fact. The before the fact thing is the fact that the influence of the moon on our orbit stabilizes it which results in less drastic climate change than the Earth might experience without. Considering that we have had five Ice Ages that postdate the existence of our moon, and all the talk of the threat of climate change to this very day, it’s pretty wild to consider that these climate shifts could have even been more dramatic, perhaps such as to prevent any life from having ever formed.
After all, our temperatures ultimately boil down to how the Earth relates to the sun, not only in distance, but also in terms of the Earth’s rotation. If the Earth rotated significantly more slowly, then what would happen is the side not, “Facing,” the sun would go longer periods without facing it and, as a result, the habitable zone (if any) of that side would be much smaller as it would cool to significantly colder temperatures during the much longer nights than it presently does.
The opposite side might fare no better as, with much longer days, it would get fewer, “Breaks,” from the sun and might heat to a point—even with the distance from the sun being the same—such that human life might not be able to withstand the heat, or perhaps the organisms that would eventually evolve into humans might not be able to withstand it.
Here are some other effects:
The above source postulates that rotation at half speed might be survivable without dying of heat exhaustion given air conditioning. Of course, air conditioning is quite a recent invention and would have been of no help whatsoever in our recent history, much less, in our distant history.
The more serious problem is that the plants would eventually dry up without their current breaks from the sun’s rays, or if you wanted to be extremely optimistic, perhaps this change in rotational speed doesn’t happen immediately (after all, the Earth is, in fact, already slowing down slightly) giving the edible plants time to evolve with the change.
Without that time, the current flora would eventually dry up and, even with the best air conditioning money can buy, humans would be left without vegetation as a food source. Worse than that, what animals could survive without dying from heat exhaustion, if any, would also be left without vegetation, which would eventually mean that they would die and humans would also be left without meat to eat. In theory, if we could keep the darn system running, we might be able to create our own artificial biosphere, kind of a modern day Noah’s Ark, (but mostly underground, for sure) but probably not in enough time if this were somehow an immediate event.
On the other hand, if the Earth rotated at double speed, almost everything drowns. The very tops of the highest of our mountains might find themselves above the water, but then we get into the problem of the Earth never becoming hot enough for many different types of vegetation to survive. Our food sources, if they existed at all, would be quite limited.
Of course, the Earth’s rotation was much faster at one point in time! In fact, at one point, a day would have only lasted roughly four of our hours, but that’s ancient history. Dinosaurs only had days of about 22 of our hours, had there been anyone around at the time to measure days or hours that way. I suppose an hour might have been something different if we had been around back then.
It’s actually the moon that slowed down the rotation of the Earth, and eventually, regulated it to the point that—look around—resulted in everything that you see being sustainable in its current form.
It’s for that reason that, when searching for other habitable planets (which, spoiler alert, I don’t think we’re ever going to physically make it to anyway), rotation is just as important as the size of the planet, size of the planet’s sun and distance from that sun. It simply wouldn’t do to have a planet where only one side ever faces its sun and ALWAYS faces that sun.
With that, we have to thank the moon for our life every bit as much as we have the sun to thank. Without the moon, the sun isn’t really doing us any favors. Besides that, the moon influences the tides and it is commonly believed that the earliest forms of life actually began in tidal pools.
Most people will know that the Earth did not always have its own moon. The National History Museum points out that the Moon and the Earth, as the Apollo mission discovered, are remarkably similar in terms of their composition. It is theorized that had the moon been an outwardly extant body that eventually found itself pulled into the Earth via gravitational force, then the composition (as it is with the other planets and bodies in our Solar System, and elsewhere in the galaxy) would be considerably different. Their website goes on to say:
Earth's greatest spinoff
Before Earth and the Moon, there were proto-Earth and Theia (a roughly Mars-sized planet).
The giant-impact model suggests that at some point in Earth's very early history, these two bodies collided.
During this massive collision, nearly all of Earth and Theia melted and reformed as one body, with a small part of the new mass spinning off to become the Moon as we know it.
Scientists have experimented with modelling the impact, changing the size of Theia to test what happens at different sizes and impact angles, trying to get the nearest possible match.
'People are now tending to gravitate towards the idea that early Earth and Theia were made of almost exactly the same materials to begin with, as they were within the same neighbourhood as the solar system was forming,' explains Sara.
'If the two bodies had come from the same place and were made of similar stuff to begin with, this would also explain how similar their composition is.'
As you might know, the radius of Mars is just over half of that of the Earth. If we assume that Theia was about half of the radius of the Earth and was composed of, ‘Almost exactly,’ the same materials as the Earth, then what you end up with is Theia picking a fight with the much bigger school bully. Unfortunately for Theia, she also couldn’t pack that much of a punch because, given that she was made up of the same materials and had about half of the radius, it means that she wasn’t a physically smaller object with more mass than the Earth, but rather, simply with mass proportionate to her size relative to the Earth.
David didn’t slay Goliath this time, but Theia put up one hell of a fight. She’d have positively crippled the Earth who was left bloodied and bruised but still able to say, “You should have seen the other guy,” and it would have taken far longer than your lifetime for the Earth to restabilize.
Speaking of, “The other guy,” you can see what’s left of him…um…her…every night in the form of the Moon. Theia would take part of the Earth with her as a trophy for her efforts, but it is theorized (and seems quite plausible) that the moon formed as a spin off effect of this collision between the Earth and Theia. In a sense, because the Earth may well have almost been destroyed (along with Theia, obviously,) the result may have been that life can flourish on Earth as it does now.
That takes us back to that water stuff that’s pretty important to our existence. As Science Daily points out, the Earth exists within the, ‘Dry,’ part of our Solar System, the Inner part. In other words, we’re really not supposed to have water, or at least, not very much of it.
However, the University of Munster seems to have demonstrated that much of our water actually came during the time that the moon was formed, which as you will recall, came about by way of Earth’s fight with Kamikaze Theia. You see, Theia was formed in the Outer Solar System, and brought the water with her when she collided with the Earth. In fact, all of the carbonaceous material (a necessity to have water) that we have access to came about by way of Theia’s collision with the Earth. No Theia, no water. No water, no life.
In other words, even if there were some planets out there that would pass for Earth in a police lineup with a decent witness, they might not fit the bill well enough. For one thing, even if the exact rotation, size, sun size and distance from the star were to be the case, a minor problem would be the fact that the planet likely would not have any water on it absent an event similar to Earth’s collision with Theia to bring carbonaceous material from that planet’s outer Solar System.
It’s also the moon that helps to stabilize our rotation, which is another byproduct of the collision with Theia, so that’s yet another element that, even with a similar planet, would count on a similar event or a different event with roughly the same outcome.
Going back to Discovery, we see that life begets life. In the early years of our planet, relative to us, of course, there were plant-like organisms that engaged in photosynthesis and by which process oxygen was released into the atmosphere thus creating the Ozone layer, which is what protects us, even to this day, from dying from radiation poisoning or starvation.
Without getting environmental on you, as I’m really not a huge environmentalist because it ultimately won’t matter anyway (but more on that later), the Ozone layer is necessary for life. Without the Ozone layer, the Earth and everything on it gets the full brunt of the sun’s radiation, more or less directly. Plants begin to whither and die, and with fewer plants, less photosynthesis occurs and the levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere increase, leading to hotter temperatures, which leads to fewer plants, etc.
Food becomes pretty scarce and it wouldn’t take too long for herbivores to mostly, if not entirely, die off. Once again, humans find themselves living underground and only going to the surface when absolutely necessary as we could handle roughly five minutes of direct exposure to the sun without the skin literally melting off of our bodies. Good times!
Long before the existence of humans, and other animals, these early plants were already engaged in photosynthesis, thereby essentially preparing the partial shield from the sun that we call the Ozone layer and, thereby, enabling higher forms of life.
That’s a pretty delicate balance! We need carbon, we need oxygen and we need just the right amount of carbon to enable the continued survival of plants which themselves enable the survival of animals. With that, it could be said that the very thing that enables human life could also be its undoing (and would very quickly have been, absent the Montreal Protocol), but we needed the carbon that came from the collision with Theia in order for the planet to have life of any kind in the first place!
There are some scientists who really, REALLY, want to believe that we can escape the inevitable, so you might hear some reports of potentially 300 million habitable planets…and…yeah, no.
Beyond that, the known Universe itself is ever expanding and at accelerating rates, and any such planets would also rely upon a star with a finite lifespan, so even if we could get there (which we will never be able to anyway), it would simply be delaying the inevitable.
In terms of Earth-like and potentially habitable planets within the range of the Kepler telescope, I tend to put more creedence in this estimate from the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society:
As they put it, in part:
Oxygenic photosynthesis is the most important biochemical process in Earth biosphere and likely very common on other habitable terrestrial planets, given the general availability of its input chemical ingredients and of light as source of energy. It is therefore important to evaluate the effective possibility of oxygenic photosynthesis on planets around stars as a function of their spectral type and the planet–star separation.
Photosynthesis, again! Life begets life. In order to have higher forms of life, you must have lower forms of life to support those higher forms of life. Call it the interstellar food chain.
Keep in mind, the Earth, by all rights, ‘Shouldn’t’ have water. No water, no plantlife, no plantlife, no photosynthesis.
When you hear more optimistic estimates, not that they’re really THAT optimistic because we’ll never reach those planets anyway, they're usually based on factors such as relative distance to the sun, relative size compared to the sun, etc. etc. In other words, they’re looking mostly just to mirror the heat conditions on Earth as closely as possible, but it’s highly unlikely that the better part of these planets were also smashed into planets of roughly half the size that formed in the Outer Solar Systems of those planets such as to enable the, “Earth-like,” planet to have abundant water…wouldn’t you say?
There’s also been a theory of superhabitable planets (i.e. better than Earth) possibly being out there, but again, we don’t have the ability yet to confirm that those planets have all of the necessary qualities for humanity (or similar) to flourish. Mostly, these such planets pass muster owing to temperature-related factors and for (some) being rocky.
The Royal Astronomical Society also points out that many of these other planets might be closer to their stars, which is fine depending on the star type as the surface temperatures might be livable if you’re closer to a cooler star, but the problem is that those planets would not get as much light as we do. Photosynthesis doesn’t work without light, people.
Anyway, the planet identified by the Royal Astronomical Society is Kepler 442-b, and only then with further observation if some or all of their more optimistic assumptions (for purposes of the study) come to pass. For one example, you wouldn’t want a planet with too much cloud cover or, even with the distance from the star and rotation factors, the planet might not receive enough light for photosynthesis to take place on a large enough scale.
The main problem with Kepler 442-b is that it exists about 1,206 light years from Earth. The Apollo 10 mission reached a top speed of a paltry 24,791 mph in space, which is the fastest any humans have ever gone in space to date. The short answer is: it’s not happening. In my opinion, it doesn’t even merit further study as it is impossible for humans to ever reach there alive anyway, so it’s really of no consequence unless we want to continue to dump billions of dollars into learning cool space things.
MEANWHILE…AT A ROULETTE TABLE IN LAS VEGAS
“The count is three-and-two with two outs and the Astros are down two with two on in the bottom of the ninth,” the announcer on the TV in the suite being shared by the old college friends intoned, “Oh! My word, did he get a piece of that one! That’s back, back, it might just have enough…at the warning track and GONE, and the Astros win it! That probably won’t change their outlook for the season, but it’s a fun way to end today’s festivities!”
“YES!!!” One of the old college friends jumped up off of the bed. He’d never been to Vegas before and, as an avid baseball fan, decided to make his first bet on the Astros. He looked at his stunned friends and elaborated, “$200 for me!”
One of the man’s more gambling savvy friends asked, “What did you bet, $40?”
Brad, the name of the first man, replied, “No. Why would I bet that? I bet $200, so I get that back and win $200.”
“No, no,” replied the other guy, “You bet on them to WIN, which means you had plus odds. The game started with the Astros plus five-hundred, which means you get that $200 back and a thousand bucks on top of it since you bet on them to win straight up.”
Later that evening, the friends were drinking and having a good time. Brad didn’t really gamble, but wanted to try to win more. One of his other friends encouraged him just to bet $500 on a single number at Roulette in the high-limit room for a huge payday, and still remain $500 to the good even if the bet lost.
“What number should I bet on?,” Brad asked.
Seeing the opportunity for a good practical joke, Nick suggested that Brad make an announced bet for $500 on Number 37. “Just go up and put the $500 on the table and say, ‘$500 on Red-37.’”
Brad did as he was instructed, walking into the high-limit room and putting the cash down announcing, “$500, Red-37,” just as the croupier was about to call out, “No more bets.”
“No bet,” the croupier intoned absently, “No more bets,” he followed. Suddenly realizing what Brad had asked for, he perked up and said, “There is NO RED-37!!!”
Brad realized what happened and laughed. He decided just to keep the $1,000 intact since he now had that as well as a decent story.
IN THE END
Betting on an escape to some other planet is like betting on Red-37, the option to do so simply does not exist. Unlike the Roulette Table in Las Vegas, however, we might be inclined to drop some money onto such a fanciful impossibility.
Even if we did escape, which we wouldn’t, we’d do nothing more than delay the inevitable. If you have a half hour to kill, here’s a fun way to do it:
As you can see, the Universe is going to continue to expand rapidly and eventually approach (and reach) a temperature of absolute zero as even the smallest of particles gets ripped apart. Even the black holes will eventually be ripped to shreds and the Universe, as we know it, will be completely unrecognizable.
In other words, we’d just be delaying the inevitable. Think of all of the things that would have to go right for humans to persist beyond Earth’s natural lifespan:
1.) We would have to find a way to colonize other planets. Mars, in this case, would be nothing more than a test case and we would have to find some way out of the solar system.
2.) With our artificial contrivances, we’d still need to find planets that even reasonably could be colonized. In other words, whatever mechanisms we are using to have a sustainable biosphere, one that is also capable of producing food, those mechanisms themselves would have to be able to survive on the planet in question.
3.) We’d have to develop a ridiculously fast means of travel, or, if wormhole theory proved to be correct, some way to stabilize wormholes and use those to travel. Of course, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity predicts the existence of wormholes, so the question is really one of whether or not they could be stabilized and/or actually mapped so that we’d have some idea of where we’d end up even if we could go through them.
That’s way outside of the purview of this article, of course, but there is some recent research and more theories being produced along those lines, so feel free to look further into that if you’re interested in the topic.
4.) Even if we could stabilize wormholes and use them to travel, you’d still need to end up close to some habitable planet.
5.) The fate of our sun, untilately, is a fate shared by all of the stars in the Universe. Eventually, they all burn out, but before that, they swell up into red giants and engulf all planets that, at this time, we would consider to be within habitable zones of the stars anyway. With that assumed, basically, the best humanity could ever do (assuming we get off of our rock in a sustainable way to begin with) is essentially be in a state of constantly running to the next habitable planet whilst trying to find a destination AFTER that one (assuming that any exist) before that star does the same thing that our sun eventually will.
6.) Of course, all signs point to the fact that humanity should not be assumed to last even that long on Earth. In fairness, a billion, give or take a few hundred million, years is a very long time, so maybe we’ll figure out an exit plan by that time. I guess none of us wil;l ever know anyway, so it’s as much as irrelevant to anyone living today.
–Even with all of that, nothing can change the fact that we will ultimately be subject to the end of all things, unless the Universe were to somehow significantly decelerate or stop expanding altogether. However, every shred of evidence that exists from our observations would point to such a thing not happening.
Some of you may be familiar with Friedmann’s postulating of a, ‘Big Crunch,’ event, which is the Big Bang essentially in reverse. Borrowing a paragraph of explanation from this page:
In 1922, Russian physicist and mathematician Alexander Friedmann derived a famous set of equations aptly named the Friedmann equations. These calculations showed that our universe’s destiny is determined by its density, and it could either expand or contract, rather than remain in a steady state. With enough matter, gravity would eventually halt the cosmos’ expansion, causing it to come crashing back inward.
Scientists now find a number of problems with this theory. Later on the same page:
The expectation-defying discovery of dark energy showed the universe was very unlikely to collapse in a Big Crunch. Even with all the matter in the universe tugging inward, gravity will never be strong enough to overcome the inflating effect of dark energy. In other words, the ballooning universe is destined for a Big Freeze.
These days, astronomers think normal matter comprises just 5 percent of the universe’s contents. Meanwhile, dark matter makes up some 26 percent, and dark energy accounts for the final 69 percent. Dark energy, it turns out, seems to be the real-world force behind Einstein’s cosmological constant, which plays a major role in preventing a Big Crunch-style collapse.
We can basically look at this in layman’s terms for an understanding, particularly if you believe that the Universe is ever-expanding and ever-accelerating. Essentially, looked at as a whole, the expansion of the Universe (in the relative short-term) causes forms of matter to be further away from other forms of matter. In other words, as was noted so long ago, most other galaxies are moving away from us, rather than towards us.
The effect of the expansion of the Universe is that what matter does exist grows increasingly separate from other forms of matter. The necessary result is the, ‘Big Freeze,’ event that we discussed earlier wherein even black holes will be ripped to shreds. The conclusion of the most recently linked article suggests that our Universe will continue this expansion and, by the time it settles down (if ever) the matter will be spread so thin and will be so ripped apart that we end up at a temperature hovering, “Just above,” Absolute Zero.
The only exception to this that I could somehow see is if matter could be added to the Universe. Essentially, the Universe itself appears (from all observation) to be infinite as it is ever expanding and only gaining in acceleration. There’s no evidence whatsoever that would point to some sort of invisible wall, or barrier, where the expansion justs tops dead in its tracks.
Even if there was any sort of barrier, which would cause the Universe to be finite in terms of total area, we have no idea where that barrier might be as we have certainly seen no evidence for any such thing.
So, given that the gravitational attraction of matter to matter, taken as a Universal whole, is growing gradually less as the Universal expansion causes matter to spread out. The link two paragraphs above suggests:
"To put that amount of matter in context, if all the matter in the universe were spread out evenly across space, it would correspond to an average mass density equal to only about six hydrogen atoms per cubic meter [about 35 cubic feet]," Mohamed Abdullah, a graduate student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), said in a statement(opens in new tab).
Keep in mind, that’s based on the current known area of the Universe and doesn’t even seem to account for the continued acceleration and expansion. In other words, the only reason that we have suns, planets, asteroids, etc…now is because the matter in the Universe was once dense enough for these things to form.
Whether or not the exact theory of the Big Bang, as most people know it, is correct, one thing that is fairly agreed upon is that either the energy collected in one place in the Universe (the explosion of which resulted, in part, in matter), or the matter collected in one place in the early Universe is what led to the current state of affairs as we know them in which planetary bodies can be close enough to stars, which emit energy, and combined with who knows how many other factors can give rise to life.
As we have detailed above, that simply doesn’t look like it’s going to continue to be the case. The Universe appears that it will reach a point where six hydrogen atoms per cubic meter would put them remarkably close together! Of course, none of us will be around to see that anyway as it takes considerably more than six atoms in order to make up a human.
I’m obviously not an astronomer, or a physicist, or an astrophysicist, but all of these things appear to be the consensus, at least as of today, of where we are as a Universe and where we are going, or rather, not going.
The better part of the Universe does not even consist of matter as we know it, the things that you can see, but is rather made up of a combination of dark matter and dark energy. From this source:
The composition of the universe is surprisingly tricky to pin down. Besides dark energy, space is also filled with an invisible form of matter known as dark matter. Astronomers now know that normal, visible matter makes up just 5 percent of the universe, while enigmatic dark matter and dark energy constitute 26 percent and 69 percent, respectively. In other words, astronomers don’t really understand what about 95 percent of the universe is really made of.
And even decades after their discovery, scientists still know shockingly little about the “dark” forces that rule our universe. “Understanding and measuring dark matter and dark energy is hard,” says Riess. “Imagine bumping around in a dark room, occasionally touching an elephant, having never seen one, and [trying to understand] what it is, what it looks like.”
The conclusion of that article points to the fact that residents of Milkomeda (the combination of our Milky Way and Andromeda, assuming that any humans even live to see that) will have no frame of reference for other galaxies as, given the acceleration of the Universe, they will be so far away from us that their light will not reach Milkomeda and, consequently, they will be unobservable. If something were to happen to the records of galaxies other than our own, (or, the combined galaxy at that time) then those theoretical people will have no reason to believe anything other than they are alone in the Universe.
I’m obviously getting out of my territory here, but nothing that I could find suggests that there’s any reason for matter, of any kind, but especially matter that is not dark matter, to be added to the Universe. What might cause that to happen? Whether you want to call it the Big Bang or something else, the consensus seems to be that all of the matter in the Universe as we know it either came from that point, or alternatively (depending on who you ask) came into existence as a result of that event. In order to get more matter, then you’d need to have some other similar event, which there is no evidence for.
Fascinatingly, at least to me, it’s possible that, as we look up into the night sky, we are seeing some stars that are already, for all practical purposes, dead. Everything that I have read suggests that it’s possible, but given the number of light years it takes for the light of distant stars to travel to Earth, relative to the lifespan of most stars, it’s highly unlikely that it’s taking place at any given time. However, there will eventually come a time, when it’s true (for someone, if they exist) assuming that some of these stars remain close enough to us to actually be observed.
One thing that we know for sure is that, assuming humanity exists long enough and the Universe continues to expand, (there’s no evidence to the contrary of the second point) we will eventually reach a point where stars that are visible to us today will no longer be visible to future humans as they will have traveled too far away for their light to make it back to us. For all practical purposes, at least when it comes to Empirical observation, those stars will effectively no longer exist.
Of course, if our records are passed down, future humans will know that certain stars were there at one time. Alternatively, we might become good enough at the whole space travel thing (which is fun to think about, but I seriously doubt) to migrate to some planet which would put those stars in view again. I think that would almost require being able to travel there by way of wormhole, though.
Either way, every shred of evidence that exists indicates that the eventual end of not only our planet, but also the Universe, as we know it, is inevitable. In fact, the end of the Universe as we would ever recognize it (or be capable of even observing) is inevitable. It’s so inevitable, in fact, that we will be gone trillions and trillions of our years before it happens.
In the cosmic sense, all of human existence is both irrelevant and meaningless. In terms of the elapsed time between the, “Big Bang,” (or whatever precisely happened) and the, “Big Freeze,” (which is what all evidence points to) the amount of time that humans spend even existing wouldn’t even qualify as a footnote, at least, if there were an observer to even footnote it.
Some might argue that, if you don’t have an observer, then you effectively don’t have a Universe, but that’s an incredibly egocentric point of view. My main point of contention with this view is that we have undeniable proof that a whole smorgasbord of things happened in the Universe, and even on Earth, prior to humanity coming into existence; we literally could not have come into existence without these things happening in the first place, so we absolutely cannot say that our existence is a requirement for the Universe to exist. Honestly, the Universe is basically totally indifferent to us. Whether someone wants to believe it’s God (we’re not here to debate that, for the record), or something else, it’s a power so far beyond our own as to be totally inconceivable. Personally, I don’t think we’ll ever know with absolute certainty how the entire Universe works, but, I think we may (if they continue to invest) get closer and closer to that answer as the better part of the Universe gets further and further away from us.
It’s the whole, “If a tree falls in the woods, and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”, question. Okay, start with that we agree that there was a tree that fell, right? Even in the hypothetical, even where we are not actually observing the fallen tree, we agree that there was a tree that fell, correct?
Not only do we agree that there was a tree that fell, but furthermore, we accept that there was a tree that fell without someone present to observe and describe it falling, do we not? The entire premise of the question assumes that trees can fall without an observer, which they obviously can. An observer might be needed to know, with certainty, that a specific tree fell, but no observer is needed for the actual tree to do the falling—the question assumes no observer is needed.
The tree question is a pseudo-philosophical nonsensical question which should only have any validity whatsoever to a solipsist. What the question is really asking is this, “Can things happen if there is no observer?” Again, if things didn’t happen with no observer, then humanity would not exist. I would also reiterate that we accept, just as the basis of the question, that a tree did, indeed, fall at some point–without an observer.
It’s the same thing with the Universe. The Universe is totally indifferent to our observation of it. As has been highlighted above, there are stars in the Universe that we can see now that, at some point, will be invisible to humans (their light won’t even make it to our telescopes) if there are any humans left who could theoretically observe it otherwise. Does that mean that those stars cease to exist? I guess they might as well have, although, they still would exist for whatever the remainder of their lifespan is. With that, we know the answer to the tree question: The fallen tree with no observer did make a sound, but from our perspective, it might as well not have.
Even ignoring the non-sentience (I assume) of the Universe, it’s the same thing, the Universe does not need us to observe it and, in my opinion, the Universe (as a whole) does not observe or care about humanity. We’re just along for the ride.
Until we’re not.
The Universe is merely our home and, as they say, “The house always wins.”