33

I was thinking of the Mayans this morning, and the controversy about the Mayan calendar in 2012 (through a long and circuitous thought process). But it got me thinking: Someone back 5000 years ago built a calendar which planned ahead 5000 years.

Lots of sci-fi books, stories, and movies are based in the future, and many of them have specific dates - Star Trek is mostly in the 23rd and 24th centuries, for instance.

This got me thinking... what is the latest date ever for the setting of a sci-fi story? I'm specifically ruling out time travel, unless a specific date is given. Vague 'millions of years in the future' like in H.G. Wells' Time Machine or a similar PK Dick story aren't really what I'm looking for, so they aren't relevant. May consider time travelers from the future if a specific date of their source is given (i.e. no "I'm from the 31st century, hello!" - not specific enough).

I'd consider just a year, or even maybe a small range of years, close enough, but no more vague than that.

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    Actually, The Time Machine takes place in the year AD 802,701. – Rogue Jedi Oct 28 '15 at 13:16
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    You rule out 90% of all sf stories, because there are very much Settings where the exact date of our calendar is deliberately obfuscated or simply not given. Star Wars takes place "a Long time ago". Dune and many others have their own calendar. Even Star Trek (Tos) had its own calendar and was adjusted later to ours. – Hothie Oct 28 '15 at 13:47
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    The final episode of the fourth season of Babylon 5 has a flash forward to the year AD 1,002,262, although this pales in comparison to some of the answers below. – Jason C Oct 28 '15 at 15:58
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    @CorleyBrigman The Mayan "calendar" works in cycles; 2012 was just the ending of the cycle before it began again. – TylerH Oct 28 '15 at 17:54
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    The finale of Isaac Asimov's short story The Last Question takes place some immeasurable amount of time after the final heat death of the universe. – Shadur Oct 30 '15 at 9:51

12 Answers 12

62

I'm not sure how specific of a date you're looking for, but "Utopia", an episode of the third season of the revived Doctor Who, takes place in the year 100 trillion:

Doctor: We're accelerating into the future. The year one billion. Five billion. Five trillion. Fifty trillion? What? The year one hundred trillion? That's impossible.

Doctor Who Series 3 Episode 11: "Utopia"

Although that seems vague (and it doesn't really have a lot of significant figures), I'm inclined to take his word for it they they really did land in exactly the year 100 trillion; the Doctor really is the sort of character who'd tell us the precise year, even if he'd landed in the year 186,165,555,852,002.

But if that's still too vague, another Doctor Who; "Gridlock" takes place in the year 5 billion and fifty-three:

Doctor: I don't want to go home. Instead, this is much better. Year five billion and fifty-three, planet New Earth. Second hope of mankind. Fifty thousand light years from your old world, and we're slap bang in the middle of New New York. Although, technically it's the fifteenth New York from the original, so it's New New New New New New New New New New New New New New York. One of the most dazzling cities ever built.

Doctor Who Series 3 Episode 2: "Gridlock"

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    There's also an episode of Red Dwarf that takes place so far beyond the end of the Universe that time has looped back around to 1993; anyone who wants to do the math to figure out how far in the future that is, is welcome to pinch that as an answer – Jason Baker Oct 28 '15 at 13:18
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    @MrLister there was an episode of Futurama with that exact premise - probably inspired by that story – CodeMoose Oct 28 '15 at 14:59
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    @CorleyBrigman I have it on good authority (Richard, an actual Englishman) that nobody in England uses the long billion anymore; so knock three zeroes out of the middle of that – Jason Baker Oct 28 '15 at 15:02
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    @CorleyBrigman Actually, make that 5 billion and fifty-three; there's a later episode that goes to the same planet thirty years later – Jason Baker Oct 28 '15 at 15:11
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    @CorleyBrigman it's not hand-wavy, it's timey wimey ;) – Vincent Oct 29 '15 at 12:14
89

In the Futurama episode "The Late Philip J Fry" they travel forward in time to the heat-death of the universe, and even further until a new Big Bang spontaneously occurs and they loop back to the year they started from.

Twice.

According to Wikipedia, the estimated time frame for quantum fluctuations to create a new universe is 10^10^56, so we can estimate that they travelled 2 x 10^10^56 years into the future. Read below for why this is very probably not true.*

To give an exact date: They traveled to the year 3010, two universes into the future.

EDIT: To answer some questions from the comments, the oldest mentioned year from the episode is 1x10^40 AD.

oldest date in episode

Since they are traveling through time, and the time machine is counting the exponents, they were definitely exactly in the year 10^40, even if only for a split second of their time.

*As for the estimate of 10^10^56 being the last year they are at due to the idea that quantum fluctuations caused the new Big Bang is just speculation due to the cause of the new Big Bang not being specified. However: Going frame by frame through the video as the year counter is ticking, the time machine is ticking through time exponentially at a constant rate of 10 frames per +1 exponent. The time machine seems to be going faster the longer it runs, at least in the old universe, and counting the amount of frames between the frame it counts 1x10^40 to the frame the new Big Bang happens (336 frames afterwards), the best estimate we can get to the farthest they got into the future is around 10^(40 + 33.6) or 10^77.6, which would make way more sense given the speed they were shown to be traveling. If this is even in the ballpark of true, then even if they continued at their exponential acceleration they would have to spend longer in the time machine than the universe took to die to reach the year 10^10^56.

Man, exponents are cray-cray.

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    Not concerned with number of years, but the date. I'll count 3010 though. – Corley Brigman Oct 28 '15 at 14:54
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    In that case, the universe ends at 10^40 AD in that episode, so that can be considered the latest date. Written out: 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Of course, 10^40 gives a pretty broad scope as to the exact year, but it's the date given by the time machine they're flying in. – RSmith Oct 28 '15 at 15:12
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    “and even further”—so they ruled out even the Restaurant at the End of the Universe – Holger Oct 28 '15 at 16:04
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    You should qualify that statement about the "estimated time frame for quantum fluctuations to create a new universe"--that figure is based on this paper, but it's only an estimate for the time frame in one particular cosmological model, the eternal inflation model where new universes spontaneously inflate from tiny patches of old ones, and the previous universe doesn't actually "end" but just keeps expanding forever, so a time traveler in the old universe would have to – Hypnosifl Oct 28 '15 at 17:50
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    (cont) be at exactly the right place and time to experience a new Big Bang. I think the Futurama ep makes more sense in terms a cyclic model of cosmology, in which the entire universe periodically experiences a new Big Bang. – Hypnosifl Oct 28 '15 at 17:51
45

10000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 AD

Part of Time by Stephen Baxter is directly mentioned to take place 10 ^ 113th power years into the future. As the descendants of humanity try to survive the heat-death of the universe. They succeed partly by becoming lossless computing algorithms. Most of the matter in the universe has suffered proton decay, and even the largest black holes have evaporated through hawking radiation.

                               Manifold: Time

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    is that an exact date? i'm specifically not looking for general 'xxx years into the future' type things. – Corley Brigman Oct 28 '15 at 14:59
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    While they don't mention the exact day of the year, they talk about the various orders of magnitude as they travel further into the future. At this point a work is unlikely to mention an exact day of year because both our current time systems are probably out-dated by then and the order of magnitude is a far more relevant indicator of time. – Mark Rogers Oct 28 '15 at 15:05
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    Because of relativity and time-dilation, time keeping between solar systems is probably more complex. – Mark Rogers Oct 28 '15 at 15:11
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    And because after heat death there is no free energy, meaning nothing ever happens again. Time becomes literally impossible to measure if there are no events to measure between! – Stephen Collings Oct 28 '15 at 15:38
  • @MarkRogers Don't worry about relativity, one can theoretically use "vacuum" time, which is universally the "fastest" one to pass. – Zommuter Oct 28 '15 at 18:44
32

I'm surprised nobody mentioned The Last Question by Isaac Asimov.

This short story traces humanity's evolution until it exists outside of space or time, after the heat death of the universe (10 trillion years in the future).

You can read it here.

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    that's not an exact date... so too vague for the purposes of this answer. interesting though. – Corley Brigman Oct 28 '15 at 17:31
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    I came here looking for this answer and am surprised it second to last! This is so for sure the correct answer. It starts in 2061, and goes until the last energy dissipates out of the universe. – 1252748 Oct 29 '15 at 17:34
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    I thought of this too. If you hadn't provided it as an answer, I would've. Its not a specific date, but its about as far into the future as unhumanly possible. – Octopus Oct 29 '15 at 22:44
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    This is an awesome story, never heard of it before. Thanks so much! – F.P Nov 3 '15 at 8:27
30

I'm really surprised no one has listed the second Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy book, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, the titular Restaurant sits in a shield bubble and rocks back and forth through time so that successive dinners can be held where the spectacle of the End of the Universe can be witnessed.

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    That's not a date, though... it seems like the asker is specifically excluding undated far-future periods. – recognizer Oct 28 '15 at 17:00
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    @recognizer That may be best left as an exercise to the reader. :) – Sidney Oct 29 '15 at 15:21
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    @recognizer: A date is just an identifiable point in time. The end of the universe is also an identifiable point in time. If you asked me what time I got to the office and I said, "At sunrise," would that be any different than "7:48 this morning"? – Ellesedil Oct 29 '15 at 23:36
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    @Ellesedil A bit of research shows that the master of ceremonies at Milliways describes the age of the universe, at its end, as "over one hundred and seventy thousand million billion years". That, compared with the current age of the universe, age of Earth, etc might provide the basis for an answer that actually fits the specificity the asker is looking for. – recognizer Oct 30 '15 at 14:33
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    @recognizer I'd disagree, the end of the universe is a pretty specific date. It might be a little hard to determine on say the Gregorian calendar as it hasn't happened yet. However at the point where our Sun has gone nova, or the Earth has been destroyed to make way for a Hyperspace Bypass, the Gregorian calendar is pretty moot anyways. – aslum Oct 30 '15 at 14:37
21

Warhammer 40,000 takes place in the 41st millenium (who'd have guessed, right?). And it uses quite an elaborate dating and time tracking scheme, so there are a lot of exact dates involved. For example, the history of the Siege of Vraks involves mentions of years 40,804 (exact date 366804.M41 in Imperial syntax), 40,809 or 40,813.

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    yeah, those are pretty exact... they definitely count, thanks! – Corley Brigman Oct 28 '15 at 14:59
12

I'll start bidding at 9595 from this

In the year 2525 If man is still alive If woman can survive They may find In the year 3535 Ain't gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lies Everything you think, do, and say Is in the pill you took today

In the year 4545 Ain't gonna need your teeth, won't need your eyes You won't find a thing to chew Nobody's gonna look at you

In the year 5555 Your arms are hanging limp at your sides Your legs got nothing to do Some machine is doing that for you

In the year 6565 Ain't gonna need no husband, won't need no wife You'll pick your son, pick your daughter too From the bottom of a long glass tube' Whoooa

In the year 7510 If God's a-comin' he ought to make it by then Maybe he'll look around himself and say Guess it's time for the Judgement day

In the year 8510 God is gonna shake his mighty head then He'll either say I'm pleased where man has been Or tear it down and start again

In the year 9595 I'm kinda wondering if man is gonna be alive He's taken everything this old earth can give And he ain't put back nothing

Now it's been 10, 000 years Man has cried a billion tears For what he never knew Now man's reign is through But through eternal night The twinkling of starlight So very far away Maybe it's only yesterday

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    that sounds a like a reference to 9595, but not a setting... anyways, there are larger numbers already. – Corley Brigman Oct 28 '15 at 14:58
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    That's a big quote without mentioning who wrote it. – JPhi1618 Oct 28 '15 at 17:31
  • So... Cleopatra 2525? – Peter Turner Oct 28 '15 at 21:09
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    That's not a sci-fi text or movie. – DCShannon Oct 28 '15 at 22:15
  • It's a scifi song ;) – ypercubeᵀᴹ Nov 2 '15 at 15:04
7

According article in wiki:

10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000: In Frederick Pohl's novel The World at the End of Time,

5

Last and First Men, written in 1930 by Olaf Stapledon, spans about 2 billion years. It describes the rise and fall of eighteen distinct "human" species, of which our own is the first.

4

The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov is a time travel story where the characters measure time in centuries. Although its future dates are nowhere close to some of the exponentially high examples in other answers, I think it's still worth noting as a work with non-rounded dates in the far future.

Some of the centuries visited in the novel are:

  • 95th: Andrew Harlan's home century
  • 482nd: century where Noÿs Lambent works
  • 2456th: Socialist Voy's work place
  • 111394th: a century where Noÿs hides (11,139,300-11,139,399 AD)
3

Joe Haldeman's The Accidental Time Machine.

In this story, a time machine that goes forward only is created. Each use of it is 12x longer forward in time than the previous use (and some physical displacement too). The artificial intelligence that controls LA (known as La) goes on a trip to the heat death of the universe.

I will concede that the specific times visited are:

2058
2059
2060
2074
2252
4346
+24,000
+320,000
+3.5 million

At this point, the main characters take a different path through time as La continues to the future. It is noted that La's goal of getting to the point where there is no energy will exist (at the heat death) will be forever impossible as La has enough energy for a very, very, very long time to keep pushing that button and going another 12x deeper into the future.

“La. So you want to go all the way up.”
“That’s right. The heat death of the universe.”

...

“Jesse nodded, looking at the space where the ship had been. “I’ve never tried to go so far up. I assume the thing will keep working, but asymptotically.”
“She’ll get closer and closer, but never quite be there?”
“As she must have known. As long as she can still push the button, the show isn’t over. By definition.”

0

Mike Harris answered with:

Last and First Men, written in 1930 by Olaf Stapledon, spans about 2 billion years. It describes the rise and fall of eighteen distinct "human" species, of which our own is the first.

And I add that Stapledon wrote a sort of a sequel describing the history of the entire universe The star Maker (1937) that extends farther into the future.

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