# That's a big numberDecember 2, 2010 9:54 AM   Subscribe

"Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space. " -- Douglas Adams

There are three times as many stars in the universe as previously estimated, bringing the number to 300 sextillion, give or take a few. That's 300 with 21 zeros after it: 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. So how bit is that, anyway?

This is a million.
This is a billion. "If you received \$1000 per day, seven days a week ... it would take 2737 years, 10 months, 7 days to reach a billion. But it would only take 2 years, 8 months, 26 days to reach a million."
This is a trillion, using dollars.

To give you another frame of reference, a million seconds is 13 days, a billion seconds is 31 years, and a trillion seconds is 31,699 years.

This is a quadrillion, if you counted using pennies.
This is a quintillion. "This many pennies,if laid out flat like a carpet, would cover the surface of the earth - twice. If you look hard, you can still see the Sears Tower and other buildings at lower right. Another way to see it is to realize that Mt. Everest (29,000 ft.) is only 1,700 feet taller than this 27,300-foot cube.

"This is as far as we will go. Three trillion tons of pennies is quite enough. To imagine larger cubes, (stepping by factors of 1,000), just imagine cubes roughly ten times larger than the last one. For instance, one quintillion pennies makes the cube above - about 5 miles on each side. If you step up to one sextillion, imagine a cube about 50 miles wide tall and thick."

Now take that cube of pennies, 50 miles on each side, and make 300 of them. That's how many stars we're talking about.

And that's before we take them all and spread them really, really far apart.
posted by SpacemanStix (73 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

Fuck. And I was almost finished counting them.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:56 AM on December 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

It's not just big, it's the biggest.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:56 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Sand Reckoner
posted by empath at 9:57 AM on December 2, 2010

You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is.

That's what she said
posted by found missing at 9:57 AM on December 2, 2010 [20 favorites]

Three times as many stars in the universe, not three times as many in the galaxy.
posted by memebake at 9:59 AM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Fuck. And I was almost finished counting them.

A much easier way to count the stars: first, enumerate the 9 billion names of God. Then you're done, because now there's no stars to count at all.
posted by kmz at 9:59 AM on December 2, 2010 [12 favorites]

And yet, as we're finding out from NASA today, we don't have to go very far at all to find a new life form.
posted by davejay at 9:59 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

It doesn't matter. The Cylons WILL find us.
posted by nomadicink at 10:00 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Three times as many stars in the universe, not three times as many in the galaxy.

And whoa, yeah, I thought that number seemed a bit big for the galaxy. It's a rather important distinction.
posted by kmz at 10:00 AM on December 2, 2010

Crazy, but I say the exact same thing about Florida all the time- "Florida is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to Florida."
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:01 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Any time I think of space and how big it is... I think of Peter Mulvey and Vlad the Astrophysicist...

It makes me sad, and wonderous... simultaneously.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:03 AM on December 2, 2010 [7 favorites]

[more inside]

Descriptysterical
posted by DU at 10:05 AM on December 2, 2010 [7 favorites]

What it truly mind boggling is how these estimations work and that after a while they lose their audience, so instead of saying, "Hey, it's bigger than we thought, and here's why", they say "Whoa, look how many additional zeros I can write at the end of that number".

And, yeah, I wouldn't want to have the job of a guy who does the countin'.
posted by mooselini at 10:05 AM on December 2, 2010

"Wait. What?"

- Abraham
posted by The World Famous at 10:08 AM on December 2, 2010 [11 favorites]

And they're all only 5000 years old! Jeebus said so!
posted by briank at 10:09 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

As far as I know, there is no evidence that the universe is not infinite. That would be a lot more satisfying to me than some arbitrary finite magnitude. The recently discussed idea that time has no beginning and the universe is cyclical would be additionally satisfying. The possibility of a multiverse containing all combinations of physical constants, quantum results, or perhaps all mathematical structures, would be even better. As far as I'm concerned, there should either be "nothing" or "everything". "A bunch of things" is not an elegant concept.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:10 AM on December 2, 2010 [8 favorites]

If you really want to bake your noodle, the number of permutations of the ordering of a 100-amino acid containing protein (a pretty small protein at that) is 20^100 - vastly more than the number of atoms in the univese. (estimated at between 10^80 to 10^85).
posted by lalochezia at 10:11 AM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Not to quibble here, but the article doesn't say there may be three times as many stars in our (spiral) galaxy as previously estimated, but three times as many stars in the universe because the number of stars in elliptical galaxies may have been vastly underestimated. Still interesting, though.

OK, I like to quibble. Sorry.
posted by lordrunningclam at 10:11 AM on December 2, 2010

That 50-mile-on-a-side cube of 1 sextillion pennies would have a surface gravity roughly equal to Saturn's moon Mimas. Its mass would only be about 12% as much, but the much smaller radius (~80km compared to 198km) mostly makes up for it. It's possible that the pile o' pennies would eventually achieve a rounded shape due to self-gravitation.

Given 300 sextillion pennies the cube would be more massive than any known asteroid and roughly the same mass as Pluto's moon Charon.
posted by jedicus at 10:12 AM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

It does help explain why we are unlikely to ever be contacted by any other intelligent life. Even if it is out there, it's sure to be tricky business finding us.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 10:13 AM on December 2, 2010

So basically it's going to take a really frickin' long time for the stars to go out, without any fuss?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:13 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Reminds me of the various discussions for ways to destroy the Earth.

TL;DR version: if you remove one billion tons of the earth's mass every second, it will take 189 million years to actually make it go away, and thus 1.8 million years to even remove 1% of its mass, i.e. enough for someone to potentially notice.

TL;DR^2 version: Science Finction Writers Have No Sense of Scale.
posted by valkyryn at 10:15 AM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't want to have the job of a guy who does the countin'.

How do they count the stars anyway? According to my calculations, if you were to count one star a second. It would take roughly 63,400 years.
posted by empatterson at 10:22 AM on December 2, 2010

It would take roughly 63,400 years.

Actually, I think it would take that long just to get to two trillion.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:25 AM on December 2, 2010

Now they know how many stars it takes to fill the Albert Hall...
posted by not_on_display at 10:25 AM on December 2, 2010 [7 favorites]

Wait. Where was I?

Dammit!

One, two...
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:26 AM on December 2, 2010

The TARDIS is actually a pretty good analogy for the Universe. When you get into it, it just gets bigger.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:34 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

SpacemanSix, clearly math is not my strong suit. I thought that if I doubled a trillion it would equal a sextillion *facepalm*
posted by empatterson at 10:35 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

clearly math is not my strong suit.

That makes two of us. I had to double-check everything about 20 times just to make sure it made sense, and I'm still worried about it.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:41 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

That 50-mile-on-a-side cube of 1 sextillion pennies would have a surface gravity roughly equal to Saturn's moon Mimas. blah blah blah....

I bet you're a blast at parties.

Just kiddin,' this is fascinating and mind-blowing stuff.

And compared to this, is it really significant whether or not I get any more work done today? I mean significant in a cosmic sense.
posted by marxchivist at 10:44 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sorry, SpacemanStix. Clearly in addition to my dyscalculia, I'm dyslexic too. I'm just going to go crawl off and die of stupid.
posted by empatterson at 10:45 AM on December 2, 2010

It does help explain why we are unlikely to ever be contacted by any other intelligent life. Even if it is out there, it's sure to be tricky business finding us.

That only holds if you assume that life is rare. I assume quite the opposite, especially now that we're finding evidence that life can exist in all sorts of conditions that we previously thought were uninhabitable. Just today, it was reported that bacteria can replace phosphorus with arsenic. Deadly toxin to us, food for them.
posted by chrisamiller at 10:46 AM on December 2, 2010

What does this mean for "dark matter"?
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 10:53 AM on December 2, 2010

I'm sure this is old hat to most of you, but everybody should learn scientific notation, rather than juggling sextillions and googols.
posted by benzenedream at 10:57 AM on December 2, 2010

What does this mean for "dark matter"?

It no longer matters so much.

(sorry. totally lame.)
posted by En0rm0 at 10:58 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

So Dave Bowman was right. It is full of stars.
posted by yeti at 11:02 AM on December 2, 2010

"If you received \$1000 per day, seven days a week ... it would take 2737 years, 10 months, 7 days to reach a billion. But it would only take 2 years, 8 months, 26 days to reach a million."

So... a billion is like, 1000 millions?

Mind -> blown.
posted by splice at 11:06 AM on December 2, 2010

Penny.
*knock knock knock*
Penny.
*knock knock knock*
Penny.
*knock knock knock*
.
.
.
(about 9,506,621,552,043,430 (9.5 trillion) years at 1 knock/second for 300 sextillion Pennies)
posted by freecellwizard at 11:07 AM on December 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

And that's before we take them all and spread them really, really far apart.

As long as we are quoting fantastic authors, I'll paraphrase one of my favorites from Pratchett:

Space: It contains nothing. And everything. But there is very little everything and more nothing than you could imagine.
posted by quin at 11:07 AM on December 2, 2010 [7 favorites]

My son is going to love this post. Thanks.
posted by fungible at 11:27 AM on December 2, 2010

It's not just big, it's the biggest.
posted by 2bucksplus

Maybe if you want to count stars. If you want to represent the whole thing in terms of entropy it's currently around 10^88 (maxing out around 10^120) bits.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 11:43 AM on December 2, 2010

It won't make much difference to constraints on dark matter. We already know how much matter is normal, regardless of how much is in how many stars.
posted by edd at 11:52 AM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

The possibility of a multiverse containing all combinations of physical constants, quantum results, or perhaps all mathematical structures, would be even better

Owlman disagrees
posted by lumpenprole at 11:59 AM on December 2, 2010

They're all just guessing.

We're stuck in a mohole.

A much easier way to count the stars: first, enumerate the 9 billion names of God.

"overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out."
posted by mrgrimm at 11:59 AM on December 2, 2010

Until we manage to get a definitive method to count all the stars (if we get a definitive method at all), I'll consider stars to be a countably infinite set.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 12:02 PM on December 2, 2010

Note that this is "300 sextillion" number is within an order of magnitude of Avogadro's number, which is around 602 sextillion (more conventionally expressed as 6.022 x 10^23). Avogadro's number is the number of atoms of an element necessary to mass the element's atomic weight in kilograms.

So 12.011 kilograms of carbon - 26.4ish pounds of carbon, or one and a third big bags of Kingsford charcoal briquets - contains twice as many atoms as there are stars in the universe. This got me to figurin'....

Using Wikipedia figures for the proportional amounts of various elements present in humans, a decent-sized newborn - say, around 7 pounds, roughly average in the developed world - already contains a little more than 300 sextillion atoms. We are born with as many atoms in our bodies as there are stars in the universe.

Now go back and read lalochezia's comment again. There are a quadrillion times more ways to combine proteins into a relatively small amino acid than there are atoms in the universe. Biology is an incomprehensably vast field.
posted by richyoung at 12:18 PM on December 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

"How do they count the stars anyway? According to my calculations, if you were to count one star a second. It would take roughly 63,400 years."
You count photons. You can count photons a lot faster than one a second. There's an awful lot that goes into figuring out how many photons per star there are, and of what colour and a whole bunch of other stuff, but it is more difficult than time consuming (difficult being why we keep changing our minds about the answer).
More generally, computers count things fast, and are good at spotting small bright specks against a dark background so in a resolved population of stars (where each is an individual dot) it's not like you need to do them one per second. There's things that computers can't do well too in astronomy, but more and more we're realising there's also an awful lot of people with time on their hands.
posted by edd at 12:36 PM on December 2, 2010

We are born with as many atoms in our bodies as there are stars in the universe.

Makes sense since we are all made of star dust.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:37 PM on December 2, 2010

If you really want to bake your noodle, the number of permutations of the ordering of a 100-amino acid containing protein (a pretty small protein at that) is 20^100 - vastly more than the number of atoms in the univese. (estimated at between 10^80 to 10^85).

Anybody know how that estimate of the number of atoms has changed over the last 50 years?
posted by Chuckles at 12:37 PM on December 2, 2010

Any time I think of space and how big it is... I think of Peter Mulvey and Vlad the Astrophysicist...

It makes me sad, and wonderous... simultaneously.
posted by Nanukthedog at 1:03 PM on December 2

I've never seen that before. It is now one of my favourite things ever. Thank you so much.

I'm really happy that I found it in a thread that references Douglas Adams. :D
posted by perilous at 12:46 PM on December 2, 2010

>Makes sense since we are all made of star dust.

Don't I know it!
posted by dust of the stars at 12:47 PM on December 2, 2010

Chuckles: The density of the universe is about 1 in appropriate units - but the mass depends on this density and also the size of the universe, and both depend on the Hubble constant. To do it all somewhat wrong, but give you something of an idea of how a cosmologist might weigh up the observable universe, the density is 3H2/8πG.
H is the Hubble constant - and has units 1/time. π is π and G is the gravitational constant. Roughly, 1/H is the age of the universe. The size of the universe is about c/H - the speed of light times the age of the universe, plus factors for knowing how much it has expanded (which depends on what the universe is made up of and how much there is). This leaves uncertainty about:
• The value of H
• How far off the size of the universe c/H is
• How far off 1 the density of the universe is
For the last one it turns out it's very close to 1, but we figured out most of it wasn't normal matter (or even dark matter) so that's changed by a factor of about 20 in the history of remotely right cosmology (since the idea of the Big Bang). We also didn't know how close to 1 it was early on (but it seemed likely fairly quickly it was within a factor of 10).
There's been some debate about the value of the Hubble constant until the Hubble Space Telescope largely fixed that - but that's been responsible for a factor of 2 or so - it's around 70 but early on people were arguing if it was 50 or 100 km/s/megaparsec.
Everything else depends on other cosmological measurements to some extent or another but that's the cosmologist's viewpoint on it. You can see how easy it is to get quite a few factors of ten in the not too distant past. There's probably some correlations in all that too that futz with what I've said, but you can get something of an idea from it.
And then there's all the astronomical counting-light-to-count-stars with the added difficulty of counting gas that's not stars that has been going on in something of a parallel effort - and which from the nature of the FPP is still not all that easy to do, and you can imagine how tough it's been.
It's not easy to weigh the universe. We seem to be getting pretty close now though. Cosmologists do talk of being in an age of 'precision cosmology', and rightly so. We've got it down to pretty impressive accuracy now.

I've also probably forgotten about half a dozen other things and made two dozen mistakes thanks to wine.
posted by edd at 12:52 PM on December 2, 2010

The discussion here reminds me of a few lines from "A Tranquil Star," by Primo Levi. That story begins,

Once upon a time, somewhere in the universe very far from here, lived a peaceful star, which moved peacefully in the immensity of the sky, surrounded by a crowd of peaceful planets about which we have not a thing to report. This star was very big and very hot, and its weight was enormous: and here a reporter’s difficulties begin. We have written "very far,” “big,” “hot,” “enormous”: Australia is very far, an elephant is big and a house is bigger, this morning I had a hot bath, Everest is enormous. It’s clear that something in our lexicon isn’t working.

It's the most lovely description I've ever seen of the difficulties you run into in trying to relate astronomical things to the language of everyday life. (Another sample sentence, because I can't resist: "For a discussion of stars our language is inadequate and seems laughable, as if someone were trying to plow with a feather.")

Anyway, the measurement described in these articles was "hard," to use another badly inadequate term, and is a little controversial. You can't see individual low-mass stars in other galaxies: they're much too faint. But we know there are many of them: in our own galaxy, for instance, more than half of all stars are so-called "M-dwarfs," meaning they're less than half as massive as the Sun and a lot dimmer. The paper these articles are talking about involves trying to ascertain how many of these dim stars there are in other, more distant galaxies. Basically, the authors looked at the spectra of certain galaxies and detected something (the "Wing-Ford band" of molecular FeH) that is associated only with very low-mass stars. By comparing what they see to a model, they infer that there must be quite a few of these stars: specifically, that they account for more than 80% of the total number of stars in these types of galaxies, which is a lot. You more or less know the total luminosity of these galaxies, so if most of the stars are lower-mass than you'd thought, you need more of them to account for the total -- hence, your estimate of the total number of stars in the galaxy (and in the universe, since you presume these galaxies are typical) goes up.
posted by chalkbored at 12:56 PM on December 2, 2010 [5 favorites]

The discussion here reminds me of a few lines from "A Tranquil Star," by Primo Levi.

You are my favorite person on the internet today because you quoted Primo Levi. He was truly one of the greatest writers of all time and is so underappreciated. Seriously, you just made my day. Thank you!
posted by The World Famous at 1:02 PM on December 2, 2010

Gosh. Today I really miss Carl Sagan.
posted by giraffe at 1:08 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

The King of All Cosmos could not be reached for comment?
posted by elizardbits at 1:21 PM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

It does help explain why we are unlikely to ever be contacted by any other intelligent life. Even if it is out there, it's sure to be tricky business finding us.

The universe is unimaginably huge. Life is relatively rare but absolutely abundant. All life eventually becomes intelligent (through evolution). Biological intelligence inevitably creates machine intelligence, which inevitably replaces it (through merging). Ergo, there is an abundance of highly evolved machine intelligence scattered throughout the (massive) universe. Aggression is neither intelligent nor a good long term survival strategy so we can presume these intelligent "life" forms are benign.

Our future has played out many, many times before in the past.
posted by bobbyelliott at 2:07 PM on December 2, 2010

All life eventually becomes intelligent (through evolution).

Evolution doesn't work that way.
posted by fredludd at 2:13 PM on December 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Bah. Call me when we hit a single mole of stars.

(I usually tell my chem students that the size of a mole is "astronomical", then stop and point out that it's even bigger than that, in a very literal sense)
posted by Dr.Enormous at 2:17 PM on December 2, 2010

sorta related; i like this comparison of star/planet sizes.
posted by rainperimeter at 2:38 PM on December 2, 2010

Number of stars in the universe over number of people on earth

So, if we're alone in the universe, I want my 10 trillion stars.
posted by bobbyelliott at 2:49 PM on December 2, 2010

So yeah, you weren't abducted by aliens and subjected to anal probing.

Sorry, but you need another excuse for where you were Saturday night.
posted by bwg at 5:15 PM on December 2, 2010

Time to dumb down the conversation. Wondering if anyone else does this. When I think about space, I catch myself using geographical referents on Earth to help. For instance, Los Angeles to New York City is a linear x many miles. So what I usually do is extrapolate that linearity to space, imagining just an unimaginably greater x to y distance. But then I visualize myself as a mote suspended in deep space, and come to the crushing realization that space isn't linear...it includes down, amongst every other direction, too. And then I get dizzy and opt to think about other things.
posted by tristero at 5:19 PM on December 2, 2010

Gosh. Today I really miss Carl Sagan.

Well, he's with Gosh now.
posted by The World Famous at 5:28 PM on December 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time.
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.
posted by infinite intimation at 5:55 PM on December 2, 2010

-Should clarify to avoid confusion, the above comment is not espousing the view that the words themselves actually symbolize, there's a sub-hyper text.
It is difficult today to fully appreciate how recent is the notion that atoms are real physical entities, and not mere mathematical or philosophical constructs. Even in 1906, scientists did not yet generally accept the view that atoms were real. In that year the renowned Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann took his own life, in despair over his self-perceived failure to convince his colleagues that the world of our experience could be determined by the random behavior of these "mathematical inventions."

But atoms are real, and even at room temperature they live a more turbulent existence than a farmhouse in a tornado, continually pulled and pushed, moving at speeds of hundreds of kilometers an hour. At this rate a single atom could in principle travel in 1 second a distance 10 trillion times its own size. But real atoms in materials change their direction at least 100 billion times each second due to collisions with their neighbors. Thus in the course of one minute, a single water molecule, containing two hydrogen and one oxygen atoms, might wander only one-thousandth of a meter from where it began, just as a drunk emerging from a bar might wander randomly back and forth all night without reaching the end of the block on which the bar is located.
....
There are countless suns and countless earths all rotating around their suns in exactly the same way as the seven planets of our system. We see only the suns because they are the largest bodies and are luminous, but their planets remain invisible to us because they are smaller and non-luminous. The countless worlds in the universe are no worse, and no less inhabited than our Earth.
-the must read, "ATOM: An Odyssey from the Big Bang to Life on Earth...and Beyond"
posted by infinite intimation at 6:19 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'll consider stars to be a countably infinite set. — This was often assumed to be the case, as part of steady-state theories, but assuming an infinite universe (of infinite age) leads you to Olbers' paradox. (Assuming an infinitely large universe of finite age is weirder than the Big Bang theory, IMHO.)

Even if [intelligent life] is out there, it's sure to be tricky business finding us — Not really. Unless life is constrained to a small area (island, continent, planet, star system, galaxy) it can grow exponentially. Space is big and stars are many, but time is long and exponential growth can produce large numbers very fast. Further reading.
posted by hattifattener at 8:44 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

"All life eventually becomes intelligent (through evolution)."

I found a really well-argued paper against this claim awhile back on Cosma Shalizi's Evolution notebook.

tl;dr version: human-level intelligence is not a convergent feature of evolution, as we would have seen such a feature pop up multiple times in the evolution of life (and not just the one time within the metazoa).
posted by ollyollyoxenfree at 12:15 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

"All life eventually becomes intelligent (through evolution)."

No. All life eventually dies. On the cosmic scale we didn't exist / won't exist / didn't even make the footnotes. On the cosmic scale, our planet really wasn't significant - nor was our solar system - nor our galaxy. 5,000 yearsof civilization is infinitesimally small when viewed from a 4.6 billion year timeframe (rough age of planet) or a ~13.8 billion years (rough age of the universe). Now push those numbers forward - we won't ever have an opportunity to ruin our planet, let alone the universe. We'll get swatted like the flies we are long before that.

Life becomes dead. We may think we're getting smart, but we kill ourselves off long before we have any significant impact.

One could go ahead and make the arguement that this whole tool user thing is just a huge waste of time. Rather than enjoying swingging through trees, getting something to eat and shagging like bunnies - we waste our times sitting in cubicles pushing papers. A few of us put rockets into space for the rest of our amusement, but realistically that's just about as intelligent as the monkey that throws his feces at the other for humor and not out of fear. We. are. wasting. our. planets. time.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:26 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Rather than enjoying swingging through trees, getting something to eat and shagging like bunnies - we waste our times sitting in cubicles pushing papers. A few of us put rockets into space for the rest of our amusement, but realistically that's just about as intelligent as the monkey that throws his feces at the other for humor and not out of fear. We. are. wasting. our. planets. time.

Worse. We're not just wasting time; we're also wasting resources which we then throw into landfills or oceans. We. are. killing. our. planet.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:23 AM on December 3, 2010

No. All life eventually dies.

That's an interesting point. I sort of agree. All biological life must die. But we only have to make it to the point of creating machine life so that that doesn't matter. I don't think we're that far from creating machine life. I've no idea really when this might happen but sometime in the next 100 years sounds feasible.

Are you saying mankind won't see out that timeframe? Or than machine intelligence is not an inevitable evolution of biological life? Or that machine life must die out?

The prospect of millions (or billions) of intelligent life forms flickering for a few cosmic nano-seconds before petering out is highly likely but doesn't it only take one civilisation not to do this to make the whole universe eventually intelligent?
posted by bobbyelliott at 2:09 AM on December 4, 2010

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