A team of astronomers from around the world confirmed this week what researchers have known for almost a century now: what started with the Big Bang will eventually go bust.
According to experts from the Galaxy And Mass Assembly (GAMA), the universe is only churning out half as much energy as it did 2 billion years ago, and is gradually approaching a state of entropy. The study confirmed something researchers have suspected for decades: the stars that populate countless galaxies are slowly burning themselves out.
Could that bleak scenario, although far into the future, have an impact on expectations for space travel, and other such endeavors? The question is legitimate, given that space tourism is expected to grow into a $1 billion sector over the next several years, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Meanwhile the National Space Society estimates the industry's size could eventually swell to as high as $1 trillion.
Indeed, the GAMA research in some ways seems to have inspired science writers and science fiction rather than scientists, many of whom think the new data illustrate information that has been known for years. The new information is not, as one astrophysicist put it, "earth-shattering," nor is it likely to be an issue for at least a billion years or so, they add.
However, scientists from some of the top academic institutions across the United States agree that the new data contribute to the understanding of the universe—even if the findings are relatively old hat.
"Of course the universe is dying," said Sean Carroll, an astrophysicist at the California Institute of Technology, who authored two books on theoretical physics. He added that it was "something we've known since at least the 1920s."