Article: How Will the Universe End?

From: Emil Gilliam (
Date: Fri Mar 05 2004 - 21:38:00 MST

How Will the Universe End?
A cosmic detective story about the demise of the world, in three parts.
By Jim Holt


What could our descendants possibly look like a trillion trillion
trillion years from now, when the stars have disappeared and the
universe is dark and freezing and so diffuse that it's practically
empty? What will they be made of?

"The most plausible answer," Dyson said, "is that conscious life will
take the form of interstellar dust clouds." He was alluding to the kind
of inorganic life forms imagined by the late astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle
in his 1957 science fiction novel, The Black Cloud. "An ever-expanding
network of charged dust particles, communicating by electromagnetic
forces, has all the complexity necessary for thinking an infinite
number of novel thoughts."

How, I objected, can we really imagine such a wispy thing, spread out
over billions of light-years of space, being conscious?

"Well," he said, "how do you imagine a couple of kilograms of
protoplasm in someone's skull being conscious? We have no idea how that
works either."


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