Our universe could one day be wiped out by a new one that bubbles up inside it and replaces it, a Fermilab scientist says.
Through a phenomenon known as vacuum instability, a quantum fluctuation could create a tiny new universe that would then expand at the speed of light.
Whether or not this happens depends on the properties of the Higgs boson, including its precise mass, which would give an indication of just how unstable out universe is. But, physicist Joseph Lykken tells Reuters, “If you use all the physics that we know now and you do what you think is a straightforward calculation, it’s bad news.”
“Many tens of billions of years from now, there’ll be a catastrophe. A little bubble of what you might think of as an ‘alternative’ universe will appear somewhere and then it will expand out and destroy us.”
Ruling this theory in or out depends on the precise mass of the Higgs boson. Frustratingly, the current best measure of the mass of the particle found at the Large Hadron Collider last summer doesn’t resolve the matter.
“Before we knew, the Higgs could have been any mass over a very wide range,” Professor Chris Hill of Ohio State University tells the BBC.
“And what’s amazing to me is that out of all those possible masses from 114 to several hundred GeV, it’s landed at 126-ish where it’s right on the critical line, and now we have to measure it more precisely to find the fate of the universe.”
Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen terribly soon. The LHC is currently shut down to allow for maintenance and repairs, and won’t be back up and running until 2015.