The Corner

The Looming Crisis

Writing in the current issue of Astronomy magazine, Abraham Loeb argues that the recently-discovered fact that the cosmic expansion is accelerating means that in a hundred billion years or so, the number of galaxies visible from Earth will be … zero. Our own galaxy, the Milky Way, will have merged with M31 in Andromeda (Loeb calls the merged galaxy “Milkomeda”) and all other galaxies — he has actually checked — will have passed beyond (actually, sufficiently close to — it’s technical) the “horizon” at which we can get no useful information from them.

Suppose some future cataclysm destroys all scientific archives. Could future astronomers, who are able to study only Milkomeda, be able to reveal it originated from the Big Bang? No … The accelerating universe makes the study of cosmology a transient episode in our long-term scientific endeavor. We had better observe the universe in the next tens of billions of years and document our findings for the benefit of future scientists who won’t be able to do so. Perhaps funding agencies should take notice and allocate funds for cosmology now. One day, such studies be [sic] impossible.

Since “funding agencies” includes the federal government, we should alert the presidential candidates to this issue. Otherwise there might be a lot of unemployed cosmologists crowding up the homeless shelters in A.D. 100000000000.

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