After many months, I finally finished Yiorgos Grammatikakis' "The Autobiography of Light". Towards the end of the book it looks at scientific predictions for the future of the Universe, as well as for the Earth.
You will all go directly to your respective Valhallas,
Go directly. Do not pass " Go". Do not collect 200 Dollars. - Tom Lehrer
Scientists believe that in around 5 billion years time, the Sun will expand into a Red Giant, which may well be so big that it engulfs the Earth. Even if it doesn't, it'll be so hot that we'll all burn. Sounds familiar?
He briefly speculates on things we might do to save the human race. One idea is for us to move onto planets further away from the Sun, the main candidate being Mars. Of course, we'll probably have to move planets in fewer than 5 billion years once we've trashed this one. Once they make Mars inhabitable, property prices here will plummet and all of the "respectable" people will move to a redder neighbourhood.
Mars isn't too bad. The days are almost the same length as here, and by pumping enough greenhouse gasses out they think it's possible to create an atmosphere similar to Earth's. We're experts at the greenhouse gas thing, so that should be okay.
Presumably once Mars is no longer the "in" place, it might be possible to move further out. Even if the planets aren't suitable, maybe their moons will be.
Another possibility, instead of trading in our old planet, we could just move it out of danger. All right, there's not really any "just" about it. Grammatakis suggests diverting an asteroid to push us, but warns that it was an asteroid strike that wiped the dinosaurs out. Maybe they were trying to do the same thing.
If we survive that, then there are all sorts of depressing possible futures for the Universe as a whole (big contraction, big bang, entropy). But scientists still don't really know what will happen there.
All of this is being rather arrogant, anyway. What makes us think that we're likely to be able to survive another 5 billion years? People keep talking of Humans wiping ourselves out, but I'm thinking more about Nature. Something else will evolve that will kill us off. We're good at stopping the big animals, but things like superbugs are out to get us.
So we're all going to die. Well, we kind of knew that anyway, but scientists have a way of making it seem more final and making us realise how helpless we are in the face of Cosmic Forces. It's not science's fault, and I think all these big scale things to do with stars, galaxies, etc is absolutely fascinating.
In the meantime, I can now start my next book. It's a Mathematical Murder Mystery. I did start it before, but left off 1/3 of the way through, so now I'm getting back to it. Hopefully it won't take as long as the last book to find out whodunnit...