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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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  • Not a problem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gweihir (88907) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:02PM (#42949115)

    If you get reincarnated, it is likely not in this universe anyways (there are more people alive at the moment that have died, ever, so they have had their last lives likely not here, as this will hold for any other planets as well at some time). So no worries.

    If you do not get reincarnated, even less of a problem.

    Still, fascinating physics!

  • Decay over time (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AnotherAnonymousUser (972204) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:15PM (#42949285)
    I'm curious now, but if there's an inherent instability, would the properties of physics slowly change over time, as its constituents begin to alter or decay?
  • Last Question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BLToday (1777712) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:17PM (#42949311)

    Will we have enough time to build the machine to figure out the Last Question? That seems like the obvious solution to the problem. Why wait for some random alternative universe to appear, we'll just make one ourselves...like William Bell in one of the alternative timeline.

  • by Linux_amateur (2685669) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:24PM (#42949399)
    The the "true vacuum" spreads at the speed of light. It could be moving towards us and we would never know. Any signal revealing the edge would arrive simultaneously with the event. Shades of the Jame Blish "Cities in Flight" series.
  • Re:Not a problem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gweihir (88907) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:52PM (#42949749)

    If you strip out all the BS about being punished if you do not do whatever religion/government/tribe/custom/whatever tells you to do, what basically remains is dualism and a way for the non-physical part to attach itself to a physical intelligence again and again. As in any such hybrid, capabilities on both sides should somehow match in magnitude (not necessarily in nature) for the whole to work (basic signal theory), so I stipulate very roughly human intelligence for the physical part. There is also some indication that in this universe, the interface mechanism is quantum effects, of which a lot are present in the synapses of the human brain. Just shifting the probabilities a little would be enough.

    I do however expect that this reasoning is far to rational and pragmatic for most people. They either will decry this as "religion" or baseless mysticism or as as atheist nonsense. Be my guest, I have zero need for you to share my beliefs. If you do however want to discuss, that is welcome.

  • by shoor (33382) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:53PM (#42949785)

    The article says the bubble moves at the speed of light. But I've seen claims that space is expanding or will eventually be expanding so that objects far apart will be moving away from each other faster than the speed of light. Does that mean this 'bubble' wouldn't reach everything?

    (Somehow, this is making me think of a Greg Egan novel).

  • by hamster_nz (656572) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @07:20PM (#42950107)

    In his book Cycles of Time, Roger Penrose attempts to look before the Big Bang, and after the end of our Universe.

    The general idea is that in the far future the universe is so uniform and cold that it becomes completely uniform, with no sense of scale. All the block holes have evaporated, all the sub atomic particles have decayed away into photons. At this point the universe undergoes spontaneous rescaling, into a very compact, bounded, hot uniform object, busting with all the energy that existed in the original universe.

    If I read it correctly, this could be interpreted as the cold death of our universe is the inflationary period of the following one, and the rescaling event is the big bang.

    The interesting thing is that he makes testable predictions. The ghosts of energy ripples of cosmic events the old universe should be imprinted on the structure of the following genesis.

  • Misses the point (Score:4, Interesting)

    by radtea (464814) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @07:23PM (#42950161)

    The idea here is that the background state of our universe is a so-called "false vacuum" that will at some future point decay into the true ground state, destroying our universe in the process. That's boring.

    By far more interesting is the possibility that the Higgs mass has been driven to just above the line of instability by some new physics. This is the first genuinely "that's odd..." moment to come along in high energy physics for quite some time.

  • by bjorniac (836863) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @07:31PM (#42950259)

    I can't do you a car analogy, but here's the very basic idea (massively watered down, physics friends - I know, I know, but let's try to keep this simple enough):

    Consider a ball rolling on a set of hills and valleys. For our purposes, let's make it simple and 2-dimensional, but you can generalize quite easily. A 'vacuum' for this system equates to being at the bottom of a valley, as this is a point of lowest energy, and things tend to roll down and end up in the bottoms of valleys. The shape of the hill (called a potential which relates strongly to potential energy you might recall from high-school/college intro physics) determines the physical properties of the particle like its mass.

    However, the valley you're at the bottom of might not be the lowest point overall in the system, it might just be a local minimum. This is what we call a 'false vacuum' in particle physics: A point in the system which looks to all intents and purposes to be a minimum in a small locale. However there could be a lower point.

    Now, when you're just dealing with classical systems (like a ball rolling on a hill) this is all well and good. However in a quantum theory the wavefunction describing the particle can happily have non-zero values anywhere and (again very roughly speaking) this means that you can 'tunnel' from one minimum to another with some probability - breaking your false vacuum and moving you to another one. This tends to be in a downward motion - you go to a vacuum lower than the one you're in. This means that the mass of the particle will appear to change, and so all the physics you observe will be completely different.

    These effects can related to all kinds of cool physics - the ones often talked in about popular-ish media are inflation/cosmological constant type things - if there is some energy associated with a particle being in a certain state, this can look a lot like a cosmological constant and produce and accelerating universe. However, if this isn't the global minimum there is a probability at all times that the tunneling effect mentioned above can happen, turning off the acceleration.

    Anyway, hope that helps. Sorry I couldn't give you a car analogy, but here's an effort at one:

    You (the particle) get a Mustang for your 17th birthday (lucky you!) and all your friends are jealous. You then start to think that since all the cars you see around you are worse than yours that you have the best car ever, and act accordingly. However, there is a chance that one day you'll catch glimpse of something sublime - an E-type. And your world view will change - there's a better car out there! Yours is only a false "best car ever", and now you have to act according to your new knowledge, which changes your behavior. Eventually you save up and buy yourself an E-type, moving to the 'true vacuum' / best car ever, and all your interactions with your friends are now based on this new car.

    OK, that was godawful. But I tried.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @09:01PM (#42951187)

    Positing Probabilities by series end:

    Penny and Leonard's Wedding ~ 67%
    Sheldon and Amy's alien love-child ~ 33%
    Raj talking to women sober ~ 80%
    Sheldon giving Walowitz respect 0.1%

  • Re:Chance unknown (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Gavagai80 (1275204) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @06:24AM (#42954109) Homepage
    Intelligence has evolved in various desperate species on Earth -- primates, birds, dolphins -- so it's reasonable to conclude that intelligence is a common eventual outcome of evolution. Opposable thumbs to build technology with, on the other hand, may be rare.

COMPASS [for the CDC-6000 series] is the sort of assembler one expects from a corporation whose president codes in octal. -- J.N. Gray

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