Are supermassive black holes bringing about the end of existence? It's a surprising claim, but one being made after scientists have discovered that the black holes are the largest contributors of entropy in the known universe.
Researchers Chas Egan and Charles Lineweaver at the Australian National University in Canberra calculated the amount of entropy - that is, potential for chaos - in the universe, and discovered that the presence of supermassive black holes has meant that the previous estimate of entropy was wrong by a factor of 10 to 1000 times.
Egan and Lineweaver believe that the universe contains about 10 to the power of 104 units of entropy, bringing everything just that small step closer to "heat death" (where everything is the same temperature, meaning that no energy flows), Egan explains:
Our results suggest we're a little further along that road than previously thought.
Don't panic just yet, though; while the black holes are responsible for a large part of the universe's entropy, they're also essentially harmless, according to the University of Oregon's Stephen Hsu:
The entropy inside those black holes is effectively locked up in there forever.
Or 10 to the power of 102 years, at least. Which is forever enough, for now...
Mammoth black holes push universe to its doom [New Scientist]