Saturday, December 01, 2007

Mankind 'shortening the universe's life'

Scicosmos122 Are we shortening the life of the Universe by merely observing it?

Forget about the threat that mankind poses to the Earth: our very ability to study the heavens may have shortened the inferred lifetime of the cosmos.

That does not mean the field of astronomy does direct harm. A universe with a truncated lifespan may come hand in hand with the ability of astronomers to make cosmological measurements, according to two American scientists who have studied the strange, subtle and cosmic implications of quantum mechanics, the most successful theory we have.

Over the past few years, cosmologists have taken this powerful theory of what happens at the level of subatomic particles and tried to extend it to understand the universe, since it began in the subatomic realm during the Big Bang.

But there is an odd feature of the theory that philosophers and scientists still argue about. In a nutshell, the theory suggests that quantum systems can exist in many different physical configurations at the same time. By observing the system, however, we may pick out one single 'quantum state', and therefore force the system to change its configuration.

Does this mean we can stop recycling . . . ?

Mankind 'shortening the universe's life'    
Roger Highfield, Science Editor
UK Telegraph 12:01am GMT 21/11/2007

Posted at 08:51 AM in Science | Permalink


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