The heat death of the universe is a topic that fascinates me. It is so far off that’s it’s unimaginable but if we are still around somehow a white dwarf could keep us alive for billions of years. It’s hard to imagine what a human would look like that far in the future, we will have likely shed our organic bodies, and become one with machines. Hell, maybe we will have figured out how to stop universal expansion and keep everything toasty in perpetuity.

This awe-inspiring animated explainer video from Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell is a great primer on where the universe is headed. Here are some cool lessons from the video:

  • 97% percent of all stars will eventually become white dwarfs.
  • White dwarfs live for up to 100 billion billion years. That’s 10 billion times longer than the universe has existed.
  • Intelligent life has a few billion years to learn how to move close to white dwarfs in order to survive.
  • When a white dwarf dies, it will become a black dwarf.
  • If protons decay the universe will eventually dissolve into nothingness.
  • If protons don’t decay, then they will become iron spheres floating in a dead universe. The effective end state of the universe.

If you’re interested in the topic and want more, I highly suggest you read Freeman Dyson’s Infinite in All Directions. The book posits the idea that as long as there is a temperature differential in the universe – there always will be – then that energy can be used to support life.

The intelligent beings would begin by storing a finite amount of energy. They then use half (or any fraction) of this energy to power their thought. When the energy gradient created by unleashing this fraction of the stored fuel was exhausted, the beings would enter a state of zero-energy-consumption until the universe cooled. Once the universe had cooled sufficiently, half of the remaining half (one quarter of the original energy) of the intelligent beings’ fuel reserves would once again be released, powering a brief period of thought once more. This would continue, with smaller and smaller amounts of energy being released. As the universe cooled, the thoughts would be slower and slower, but there would still be an infinite number of them.

– Dyson’s “Eternal Life Postulate”



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