Supermassive black holes, heat death and entropy could be wonderful dinner conversation as you toast to the end of the universe. Not sure when it'll happen, but based on some re-calculations of entropy in the universe, it's sooner than we expected.
Entropy is the big topic in the whole "end of the universe" research. Basically there's speculation about whether there is such a thing as a maximum level of entropy, a point at which all molecular motion (and therefore life) will stop. The concept is thought of as "heat death" and these researchers want to know when it might happen.
In order to even attempt to estimate the end of life, they need to quantify the level of disorder in the universe, which isn't exactly an easy task. So, it's no surprise that previous estimates were a tiny bit off:
An analysis by Chas Egan of the Australian National University in Canberra and Charles Lineweaver of the University of New South Wales in Sydney indicates that the collective entropy of all the supermassive black holes at the centres of galaxies is about 100 times higher than previously calculated. Because supermassive black holes are the largest contributor to cosmic entropy, the finding suggests that the entropy of the universe is also about 100 times larger than previous estimates.
Researchers still can't know if their new calculations are truly more accurate than prior estimates. What they can know is that no one accounted for supermassive black holes during the last number crunching. Wonder if a Muse song inspired someone to remember it this time. [US News via Pop Sci]