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The science of eternity

If humans do not destroy themselves they may spread beyond the earth into a universe that could last almost forever. Life would have tunnelled through its moment of maximum jeopardy

By Martin Rees   January 2002

Over the past few centuries, the earth has aged spectacularly. Its creation has been moved back from 6pm on Saturday, 22nd October, 4004 BC, as calculated by the 17th-century scholar and Archbishop of Armagh, James Ussher, to a time and date some 4.5 billion years earlier. The story of life has been stretched back almost as far, and the story of complex, multicellular life-forms-relative newcomers-has itself been almost a billion years in the making. As a result, the way we see the world has changed profoundly. Not only can we now have some sense of the millions of years it…

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