A pair of American physicists claim that human astronomical activity may have shortened the lifetime of the entire universe. This is based on a combination of arguments from quantum theory (e.g., Schrodinger’s cat) and cosmology (dark energy). Here are some excerpts from the article:
Mankind ‘shortening the universe’s life’
…The startling claim is made by a pair of American cosmologists investigating the consequences for the cosmos of quantum theory, the most successful theory we have. Over the past few years, cosmologists have taken this powerful theory of what happens at the level of subatomic particles and tried to extend it to understand the universe, since it began in the subatomic realm during the Big Bang.
… [T]he cosmologists claim that astronomers may have accidentally nudged the universe closer to its death by observing dark energy, a mysterious anti gravity force which is thought to be speeding up the expansion of the cosmos.
The damaging allegations are made by Profs Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and James Dent of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, who suggest that by making this observation in 1998 we may have caused the cosmos to revert to an earlier state when it was more likely to end.
… “The intriguing question is this,” Prof Krauss told the Telegraph. “If we attempt to apply quantum mechanics to the universe as a whole, and if our present state is unstable, then what sets the clock that governs decay? Once we determine our current state by observations, have we reset the clock? If so, as incredible as it may seem, our detection of dark energy may have reduced the life expectancy of our universe.”
Prof Krauss says that the measurement of the light from supernovae in 1998, which provided evidence of dark energy, may have reset the decay of the void to zero – back to a point when the likelihood of its surviving was falling rapidly. “In short, we may have snatched away the possibility of long-term survival for our universe and made it more likely it will decay,” says Prof Krauss.
If this is the logical conclusion of integrating the current Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics with contemporary cosmology, then physicists really need to re-examine the philosophical foundations of their science.
As yet, there have been no calls from radical environmentalists for humans to stop all scientific activity in order to save the entire universe.
But it may not be too long before some people propose in all seriousness what Richard Watts suggested as a joke, namely that “we should sacrifice for the pristine vacuum of empty space”…
Update: Richard Watts notes, “I did mean that as sarcasm toward the environmentalists. But I didn’t mean it as my suggestion for a course of action, not even jokingly.”