September 10th, 2007


Pondering Eschatological Cosmology

In an article that opens by retelling the story of Alvie Singer’s childhood existential crisis (from Annie Hall), Jim Holt interviews a number of prominent cosmologists and eventually works his way around to this thought:

  • Why should we want the universe to last forever, anyway? Look—either the universe has a purpose or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, then it is absurd. If it does have a purpose, then there are two possibilities: Either this purpose is eventually achieved, or it is never achieved. If it is never achieved, then the universe is futile. But if it is eventually achieved, then any further existence of the universe is pointless. So, no matter how you slice it, an eternal universe is either (a) absurd, (b) futile, or (c) eventually pointless.
    —Jim Holt, “How Will the Universe End?” in The Best American Science Writing 2005, Alan Lightman (editor), Jesse Cohen (series editor), Harper Perennial, New York, 2005, p.56.