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an illustration depicting hawking radiation
The answer is Hawking radiation, through which the last black holes will evaporate.

Hawking radiation can be traced to quantum mechanics. Hawking radiation occurs near the event horizon of black holes, where pairs of virtual particles are created spontaneously.

Sometimes, one of these particles falls into the black hole while the other escapes, resulting in a net loss of mass for the black hole and the emission of radiation, a process that gradually causes black holes to lose mass and eventually evaporate over immense periods of time.

This weird radiation is one of the key mechanisms through which black holes can eventually cease to exist.

The time it takes for a black hole to evaporate depends on its size, with smaller black holes evaporating more quickly than larger ones. According to Hawking’s calculations, a typical black hole with the mass of the sun would take about 10⁶⁷ years to evaporate. 1 followed by 67 zeros. To put it into perspective, the age of the universe is estimated to be about 13.8 billion years.

Black holes evaporating also has implications for the end of the universe as we know it.

As black holes continue to lose mass, the energy they emit will eventually lead to the hypothesized “heat death” of the universe, which is the most prevailing model of the universe's fate.

In this state, the universe will reach a stage of maximum entropy and thermodynamic equilibrium, meaning no more heat or work can be extracted, resulting in the universe becoming essentially a cold, lifeless void.


But it is really nothing, void less?

We have energy left over from evaporating black holes that leave over quantum fluctuations, so something is still existing even after the last black holes evaporate.

There’s always a but…

There’s an ongoing debate on whether we can define quantum fluctuations as nothing. Can we? I and many others think it is absurd to assert that the quantum “void” can be regarded as nothing considering it is something, albeit a wee bit amount of something. That’s something nonetheless.

I'll only condede on...

The one thing I will concede about nothingness is that nothing significant will happen once the last black holes evaporate. It’s a scenario of ultimate stillness, where the universe reaches a state of equilibrium, devoid of the cosmic forces that once defined its existence.

If you’re curious, you can read an essay I’m writing dubbed the ‘Somethingness Principle — How Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?’ This is an essay regarding how the laws of the universe might prevent nothingness from existing. A direct link is below.

Cite this article: Dylan Walker. "The Last Significant Event in the Universe." Space Ponder, 10 July 2024.<>


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