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Does the Higgs Boson Reveal Our Universe's Doomsday? 421

Posted by Soulskill
from the keep-calm-and-carry-on dept.
astroengine writes "If calculations of the newly discovered Higgs boson particle are correct, one day, tens of billions of years from now, the universe will disappear at the speed of light, replaced by a strange, alternative dimension one theoretical physicist calls boring. 'It may be that the universe we live in is inherently unstable and at some point billions of years from now it's all going to get wiped out. This has to do with the Higgs energy field itself,' Joseph Lykken, with the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., said. 'This calculation tells you that many tens of billions of years from now there'll be a catastrophe.'"
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Does the Higgs Boson Reveal Our Universe's Doomsday?

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  • by Midnight_Falcon (2432802) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:05PM (#42949163)
    Under the Big Bang theory, the universe will eventually collapse in on itself, likely at the speed of light. The tell-tale sign will be redshift instead of blueshift being observed from Earth to various astronomical bodies. What I'd like to ask is how does this change our understanding of the ultimate fate of our universe?
  • Re:Seriously? (Score:5, Informative)

    by pla (258480) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:11PM (#42949243) Journal
    I like physics and I like some quantum theory but calculating that in 10 billion years the universe will disappear hardly seems important.

    I wouldn't put too much stock in that number - More like one of those things that could already have happened and we just haven't noticed yet, or might not happen for trillions of years.

    As a better way to think about it, take a 6 pack of bottled soda and leave it somewhere just below freezing for a few days. About half of the bottles won't have frozen. If you then open one of the non-frozen ones... Or set it down too hard, or give it a whack with a spoon, you can literally watch it freeze over about 5-10 seconds as a wave of ice sweeps out from one spot (the cap / the bottom / where you whacked it). It does this because supercooled water exists in an unstable state but just hasn't figured out how to freeze yet.

    Same idea here, except on a universal scale. At some point, one tiny spot in our universe will "figure out" how to reconfigure itself into a more stable universe. That spot will then expand through the rest of the universe at the speed of light.
  • Re:Not a problem (Score:5, Informative)

    by Znork (31774) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:14PM (#42949277)

    The idea that more people are alive than have died is an urban myth; if you google it, estimates are that about 100 billion people have lived and died over the last 50k years. So we're outnumbered by dead people by quite a bit.

  • by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:17PM (#42949315) Journal

    The big bang theory does not require a collapse. It allows that as a possibility, but does not require it as an outcome.

  • by funwithBSD (245349) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:45PM (#42949677)

    Central casting.

  • Re:Seriously? (Score:4, Informative)

    by tnk1 (899206) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @07:05PM (#42949935)

    Will "we" meaning "evolutionarily uplifted intelligent monkeys" be around in 10 billion years? The answer is probably "No". Will the results of our intelligence still be kicking around, possibly even consciousnesses born from us? There's no reason that can't be a "Yes".

    However, it will certainly be a "No" unless we know what we need to overcome.

    We could certainly all die off before getting to that point, but if it is at all possible to survive that long, there is a real chance that we will, in some form. Nothing about evolution makes that impossible.

    In the end, if we maintained, in the past, that the ability to turn lead into gold or some other ridiculous alchemical trick was not worth the time of pursuing, we'd never have gotten as far as we have, and made it possible to have even the population we do have. In effect, future science has already fed and clothed millions, maybe billions of children who would have starved if we'd just did something like spend all our time and money on trying to farm more, using old fashioned agriculture without an understanding of chemistry.

  • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @11:11PM (#42952211) Journal
    Essentially what you are asking is why are energy and momentum conserved since the laws of motion can all be derived from that. Emily Noether showed that for any conserved quantity there is a symmetry (note this is a purely mathematical proof). For energy this symmetry is translation in time I.e. the laws of physics today are the same as they were yesterday and the same as they will be tomorrow. The symmetry of translation in space gives conservation of momentum I.e. the laws of physics here are the same as the laws of physics where you are.

    So effectively the laws of motion we observe are a direct consequence of the symmetries of the space time in which we live. When you add in relativity you get Lorentz transformations (which is undoubtedly what your Russian friend was talking about). Indeed we think of the fundamental laws of physics in terms of the symmetries they obey Since Noether's theorem and Lagrangian mechanics is taught in first or second year mechanics (depending on where you are) anyone with a physics degree should know this...
  • Re:Misses the point (Score:5, Informative)

    by joe_frisch (1366229) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @10:54AM (#42955401)

    I just did my best to read the original paper. (I'm a physicist but this is out of my field). Take-away items (assuming this and a paper it references are correct)

    1. It is possible for the universe to have ended up in a meta-stable state as it cooled. Think a little like super-cooled water that will suddenly turn to ice if there is a source of nucleation. The lifetime of this state (given what data we have) can be pretty much anything. The fact that it hasn't decayed yet suggests that if the universe is metastable the lifetime is at least billions of years, and it could easily be MUCH larger. The lifetime is exponential in some unknown parameters.

    2. One form of instability would result if the mass of the Higgs, the mass of the Top quark and some coupling constants had a certain relationship. We do not currently have a sufficiently accurate measurement of those numbers to know if the universe is stable, metastable, or unstable - the last being disallowed because we are still here. It is interesting that we are anywhere near the stability boundary and that may imply some interesting physics.

    3. If we build a Linear Collider (another $10B machine) it will be able to measure the required parameters to sufficient accuracy to tell if the universe is stable or metastable.

    Note: if the universe is metastable there is not imaginable technology that could cause a phase change (read destroy the universe). There are cosmic rays with 10^21 ev enrergies (a billion times higher than LHC) and there have been some head-on collisions on the history of the universe. Nothing we are going to do will trigger a state change.

Things are not as simple as they seems at first. - Edward Thorp

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