Where are we, and for how long…?

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very now and then, I find myself doubting the concept of living on a planet inhabited by at least one (so-called) sentient species. It often takes no more than a few rounds of the prime-time news to seriously make me reconsider this concept of ‘sentient’.

The sheer fact that there is life on this planet, should urge us (the presumptuously self-appointed sentient life-form) to do all possible efforts to ensure the full preservation of planet and life alike. However, we (the humans) seem to have an irresistible predilection for all activities aimed at endangering our own survival on the surface of said planet.

The Universe will eventually win the race and manage to wipe us out once and for all. It’s all just a matter of time and scale.

On a cosmic scale, in about 5 to 7 billion years from now (give or take a million) the sun will begin to die. The major part of its nuclear fuel will be depleted, causing it to expand (much farther beyond Earth, hence completely sanitizing it of any life-form) and become a red giant star in the first place. Subsequently, its core will contract, releasing some residual energy and then stabilize, while the outer layers will drift off into space, forming a so-called planetary nebula.

An example of Planetary Nebula: the Helix nebula.

This expansion will expose the Sun’s core, which will cool and shrink even further, causing the Sun to become what is known as a ‘white dwarf’ star. In this form, it will radiate what is left over of its nuclear fuel for a few more billion years. The good old Sun will eventually become a cold and dark ‘black dwarf’, which is in essence a dead star.

A Black Dwarf.

Shrinking the scale by some light years, on a planetary system scale (our own solar system, that is), life on Earth may come to an end even before the Sun reaches its first stadium (the initial expansion) and become a Red Dwarf.

A Red Dwarf

In less than 1 billion years we may be already and completely wiped out. The Sun is gradually getting hotter. This is a fact we cannot deny, no matter what those short-sighted industrialists and bloodthirsty Corporations may try to make you believe. We are just accelerating the process by indiscriminately pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. Nevertheless, even if human race as a whole becomes wise overnight (not a fat chance in the entire Universe), the Sun will still eventually and unavoidably become hot enough to evaporate all Earth’s oceans, and cause an exponentially growing greenhouse effect that would wipe out all life-forms, except maybe the most resistant microorganisms, if ever. So also on a smaller scale, for us it’s game over much, much earlier than we may think (or wish).

This 1 billion years life-limit seems so far away, and still humanity will not sober up within the next millennium and start thinking about a way if not to escape the inevitable, at least to conceive a sideways step to ensure its own survival and continuation. On the contrary, we seem incredibly happy to shorten this even further, by vandalizing Earth’s resources as much as we can and by murdering each other for idiotic reasons like money, religion, ethnic differences, sexual inclinations and so on. The devise seems to be: the more stupid a reason, the better.

Fortunately, on a cosmic scale, Earth is insignificant, and so is the human race.

Statistically, it is almost certain that life has originated on more than a few different places in the Universe, which are (also statistically) so distant from each other that those other life-forms will be too far away from Earth in order to ever encounter each other (are they lucky…). The sheer scale of the Universe makes sure of that, unless one of those life-forms becomes so technologically advanced to develop the technology required to travel faster than light, therefore bypassing the space-time continuum limitations.

That we are the ones becoming so technologically advanced, is completely out of the question. The very first moment we discover how to bend space and time, be assured that we will use that knowledge to completely eliminate each other once and for all. Our own intrinsic hate for everything ‘different’ will make sure of that.

Moreover, this same hate will ensure that even in the improbable eventuality that the most technologically advanced (but alien, hence ‘different’) other life-form in the Universe is able to get in touch with Earth, we would either destroy them (I’m confident we can manage that, no matter how technologically advanced ‘the others’ are), or this other life-form will use the historic one-liner “Beam me up, Scotty… There is no intelligent life on this planet” and happily move on, leaving us to meet our end in much less than 1 billion years form now.

Am I a pessimist? Not exactly, but I don’t have much confidence in the collective sanity of the human race either…

Unfortunately, we seem to produce too few geniuses like Stephen Hawking and too many idiots like Donald Trump, so the balance, as a life-form, is at our disadvantage.

I just wonder if there is another life-form in this vast Universe that is so obnoxiously self-important and arrogant as we are. If there is, maybe they should come over and show us, once and for all.

 

SHawking
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