Feb. 16, 2009 How did the universe begin? How will it end? Do other universes exist? Everyone at some time or another ponders these questions. Generations of researchers have brought us to our current point of understanding, but our picture of the universe has changed more in the past decade or so than it did in the past century. The changes have had a significant effect upon our understanding of the future of the universe and life within it.
Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist at Arizona State University, will describe how these revolutionary discoveries in cosmology have dramatically altered our views on the universe at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting on Feb. 16.
In his lecture "Our Miserable Future," Krauss will discuss the impact of new discoveries, including the key facts that the universe is flat and the dominant form of energy in the universe resides in empty space. While significantly impacting our understanding of the future of our universe, these changes have also effected the questions asked in modern cosmology, forcing researchers to confront several profound questions.
"Are fundamental cosmological questions falsifiable? Are the laws of nature fixed, or environmental? Are there fundamental cosmological limits to knowledge, and to life?" asks Krauss, a professor in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences where he is a faculty member in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the Physics Department. "The revolutionary developments of the past decade have forced us to confront truly fundamental questions at the basis of science.
"In the far future all evidence of the big bang will disappear and scientists will think we live in a static eternal universe," explains Krauss.
Looking out at a night sky twinkling with distant light, it's a disturbing challenge to imagine that one day – far in the future – we will be alone in a dark empty universe. The rest of the universe will disappear before our very eyes.
Krauss adds, "We may live at a very special time in the history of the universe. Understanding why that appears to be the case is one of the biggest open questions in cosmology."
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