(Roughly) Daily

“I was a peripheral visionary. I could see the future, but only way off to the side.”*…

Artist’s concept of the Earth 5–7.5 billion years from now, when the Sun has become a red giant. (source)

As Niels Bohr said, “prediciton is hard, especially about the future.” Still, we can try…

While the future cannot be predicted with certainty, present understanding in various scientific fields allows for the prediction of some far-future events, if only in the broadest outline. These fields include astrophysics, which studies how planets and stars form, interact, and die; particle physics, which has revealed how matter behaves at the smallest scales; evolutionary biology, which studies how life evolves over time; plate tectonics, which shows how continents shift over millennia; and sociology, which examines how human societies and cultures evolve.

The far future begins after the current millennium comes to an end, starting with the 4th millennium in 3001 CE, and continues until the furthest reaches of future time. These timelines include alternative future events that address unresolved scientific questions, such as whether humans will become extinct, whether the Earth survives when the Sun expands to become a red giant and whether proton decay will be the eventual end of all matter in the Universe…

A new pole star, the end of Niagara Falls, the wearing away of the Canadian Rockies– and these are just highlights from the first 50-60 million years. Read on for an extraordinary outline of what current science suggests is in store over the long haul: “Timeline of the far future,” a remarkable Wikipedia page.

Related pages: List of future astronomical events, Far future in fiction, and Far future in religion.

* Steven Wright


As we take the long view, we might send grateful birthday greetings to the man who “wrote the book” on perspective (a capacity analogically handy in the endeavor featured above), Leon Battista Alberti; he was born on this date in 1404.  The archetypical Renaissance humanist polymath, Alberti was an author, artist, architect, poet, priest, linguist, philosopher, cartographer, and cryptographer.  He collaborated with Toscanelli on the maps used by Columbus on his first voyage, and he published the the first book on cryptography that contained a frequency table.

But he is surely best remembered as the author of the first general treatise– De Pictura (1434)– on the the laws of perspective, which built on and extended Brunelleschi’s work to describe the approach and technique that established the science of projective geometry… and fueled the progress of painting, sculpture, and architecture from the Greek- and Arabic-influenced formalism of the High Middle Ages to the more naturalistic (and Latinate) styles of Renaissance.

Figure from the 1804 edition of Della pittura showing the vanishing pointsource)


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