The end really is nigh... but don't panic, there's only a 50% chance of it coming in the next 3.7BILLION years
By Niall Firth
30th September 2010
There is a 50 per cent chance that time will end within the next 3.7 billion years, according to a new study.
Some physicists believe that our universe - and everything in it - will continue to expand at an ever-increasing rate, splitting into newer universes as it goes.
This is known as theory of 'eternal inflation' and has spawned the idea of the 'multiverse' in popular science-fiction.
But a group of scientists have argued that the laws of physics do not work in a universe that is never-ending and continues to expand – it must end at some point.
A star explodes in a Hubble space image. Some scientists believe that our universe is not never-ending and will finish suddenly one day in the future
And Raphael Bousso, at the University of California, Berkeley, has worked out when this is most likely to happen.
His team’s argument is that in an infinite universe any event that can happen, will happen. Furthermore it will happen an infinite number of times.
The problem with this is that if there are an infinite number of instances of everything happening it is then impossible to determine the probability of them happening at all.
This means that the laws of physics, as we know them, no longer work.
We're stuck between a rock and a hard place,' says Bousso. 'If you don't like the cut-off, then you have no way of making predictions and deciding what's probable in eternal inflation.'
The only way to make our current universe work is to include a catastrophe at some point in the future which ends time - and takes us with it.
Using complicated theoretical physics and advanced mathematics the team calculated when this is most likely to occur.
Bousso says: in the study: ‘Time is unlikely to end in our lifetime, but there is a 50 per cent chance that time will end within the next 3.7 billion years.’
This means that time and the universe would end before our own Sun has died.
Other physicists give us slightly longer, calculating the end of time to occur within the next five billion years.
But there is some good news. The research team say that, due to physics, we will not know when the end of time is approaching before it actually takes place.