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Odd Thoughts: Time keeps getting shorter

The age of the universe won’t matter if we keep killing our planet.
Bob Groeneveld has been sharing his Odd Thoughts with Langley readers for more than four decades.

By Bob Groeneveld


It’s time to get your affairs in order.

Talk to your priest, your pastor, your holy man… whatever your religious beliefs dictate, if you have any.

Spend some quality time with your loved ones. Maybe do a few good deeds to make up for anything that may weigh on your conscience when the time comes.

You may not have as much time as you thought.

Scientists have become split in their reckoning of the age of the universe. If the young-universe crowds are right, then the Big Bang may have happened as few as ten billion years ago, instead of the previously accepted 15-billion-year assessment.

That, in turn, would mean we only have two-thirds of the time previously believed before the universe collapses back in on itself or fades away into a cold and lifeless nothingness, perhaps only a few trillion years from now.

Some scientists have even calculated that time itself will end shortly after our sun swallows the earth and dies, just a few billion years from now – but their calculations depend on ours being only one of a whole bunch of universes.

But if they’re right… is your will up to date?

The split between young- and old-single-universers is between serious scientists. We’re not talking about 6,000-year whack-jobs, and it’s not like a few anti-vaxxer charlatans yelling “Squirrel!” to get your attention away from the preponderance of immunologists’ evidence in favour of vaccinations.

Furthermore, the young-old split is pretty even, not like a couple of dubiously self-proclaimed scientists denying the findings of tens of thousands of climatologists who actually earned their degrees from real universities.

The age-of-the-universe problem is as weird as it is vexatious. Cosmologists get different results when they measure the age of the universe from the Big Bang to today than when they measure backwards from today to the Big Bang.

It could mean that the standard theory upon which all of today’s cosmology has been built is flawed.

That is the way theories operate in science. They work until they don’t. And then they have to be adjusted. The result is generally a kind of ratcheting process that keeps getting us closer and closer to understanding reality.

All of this aside, it’s still a good idea to spend some quality time with your loved ones, and it’s never a bad time to do some good deeds – whether or not you feel your conscience needs the post-mortem support.

Also, get your vaccinations – don’t fall for the anti-vaxxers’ nonsense. Scientists may not know the exact age of the universe yet, but when it comes to staying healthy, real science is still your best bet.

The same goes for climate change: don’t be gullible. Scientists who actually study the climate are rightfully frightened by this month’s 18.3C day in Antarctica.

If we don’t stop rebuilding our planet into a place unfit for humans, the few billions of years discrepancy in estimating the age of the universe will be meaningless, anyway.

So, yes, it’s time for all of us to get our affairs in order.


In a past life, Bob Groeneveld was editor of the Langley Advance and the Maple Ridge Times. Now he writes when and what he feels like. He has been sharing his Odd Thoughts with readers for more than 40 years. Visit with him on Facebook.

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