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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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  • Meh. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @05:55PM (#42949035)

    Nothing of value will be lost.

    • The sun will be lost. It will explode before the universe does.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @07:27PM (#42950209)

        So a Higgs Bosun walks into a church. The priest says "we don't allow Higgs Bosuns in here."

        To which the Higgs Boson replies, "but without me, how can you have mass?"

      • by rve (4436)

        The sun will be lost. It will explode before the universe does.

        Don't be so negative

    • Nay doomsayer... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rmdingler (1955220) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:35PM (#42949547)
      I am so tired of the 'Mankind's existence is valueless' bravado. We are a billion to one galactic coincidence that has risen to sentient thought and self-awareness. This astronomical concurrence alone is worthy of continuance. If we finally evolve beyond primal tribal and religious bickering, we can get on with off planet settlements... and we have still a cushion of ten billion years to settle other galaxies.
      • by NatasRevol (731260) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @07:38PM (#42950337) Journal

        We've had primal tribal & religious bickering our entire existence.

        What makes you think we can get beyond that?

        Also, there's several trillion planets in our galaxy alone. And 200 billion galaxies.
        http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2013/01/05/how-many-planets-are-in-the-universe/ [scienceblogs.com]

        If we're a billion to one coincidence, we're not all that unique.

        • by Tom (822)

          What makes you think it'll be humans that move out into the galaxy and not some other species that only has us as an ancestor? The super-human, to speak with Nietzsche (abused as it was by the nazis, his concept of the Ãoebermensch was not racial in nature, but evolutionary).

          We might just be one of a few million intelligent species in this galaxy, but we are likely the only one around for a couple hundred light years.

        • We've had primal tribal & religious bickering our entire existence.

          What makes you think we can get beyond that?

          Whoa, whoa, whoa. Who said that we were going to stop? We are just trying to extend the practice to new locations! Those people from Alpha Centauri think they're better than us pure Earthlings.

      • It isn't all that special if we are meant to be.

        Personally, I think that living beings and the universe form a symbiotic relationship. We can't exist without a universe, equally, a universe without an observer might as well not exist. By this logic, it makes sense that a universe that wants to exist needs to creates observers in addition to itself.

        • By this logic, it makes sense that a universe that wants to exist needs to creates observers in addition to itself.

          Anthropomorphize much?

  • by Niterios (2700835) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @05:55PM (#42949037)
    News and science channels never waste a second when it comes to predicting doomsday.
  • Get in line (Score:5, Insightful)

    by crazyjj (2598719) * on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @05:58PM (#42949077)

    Jesus rapturing us up, meteors wiping us out, the sun expanding into a red giant, the heat death of the universe--take your goddamn pick.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You forgot 'us blowing ourselves up'. That one's much more imminent than the rest of them combined.

      (The captcha on this one is 'practice' - strangely fitting)

    • If I get to pick, I'm gonna go with hookers and blow. Boil yourself into atomic bits if you like, I'll take the low road.

      • by Carewolf (581105)

        If I get to pick, I'm gonna go with hookers and blow. Boil yourself into atomic bits if you like, I'll take the low road.

        We were talking about our Universe's Doomsday. It would have to be some pretty sucky hookers if they are going to blow the universe.

    • by tmosley (996283)
      I read that as "Jesus raptoring up", and smiled.

      Raptor Jesus went extinct for our sins.
    • (Insert one or more of the thousands of Gods that people believe in) destroying the earth.

  • 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!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851)

      This post shows a distinct lack of knowledge about the subject.

      Whether or not reincarnation is real, the idea is that people get reincarnated as people and any sort of living creature that exists. So, there's no need to be enough humans at any given time for the idea to hold, as long as there are enough living things. What's more it's been accepted theory for many centuries that only a very small fraction ones incarnations are as humans, most of the time it's as things like ants and spiders.

      Or, that's the t

      • Theory (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fyngyrz (762201) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:15PM (#42949301) Homepage Journal

        What's more it's been accepted theory for many centuries

        It would appear that you don't know what the word "theory" means. You used it where you more properly should have used "ridiculous, evidence free, superstitious presumption."

        You're welcome. :)

      • What's more it's been accepted theory for many centuries that only a very small fraction ones incarnations are as humans, most of the time it's as things like ants and spiders.

        If you're talking about Buddhism, this isn't true. Reincarnation as an animal would be the result of a life badly lived, and it's almost impossible to get back up the ladder.

        • 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 gweihir (88907)

        Your "accepted theory" is not mine. Mine stipulates very roughly human mental capabilities, as reincarnation otherwise does not make sense if derived from dualism. The "accepted theory" is just hogwash to scare people into behaving well, but if you strip that out, something like mine remains.

        And yes, thank you, I am well aware of the subject matter. "Reincarnation" does no more indicate your "accepted theory" than, for example, "religion" indicates Christianity, although the proponents of whatever garbled v

    • 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 Mikkeles (698461)

        True, but many more scientists are alive than have died; so: become a scientist and live forever!

    • by pla (258480)
      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.

      Now, imagine a new universe expanding inside our own at the speed of light. It hits Earth - We reincarnate somewhere else. It hits there - We reincarnate somewhere else. And so on...

      At some point, you will have every entity in the universe tryi
  • bizzare (Score:5, Funny)

    by darkob (634931) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:04PM (#42949137)
    So Douglas Adams nailed it when he wrote that the universe would be replaced with something bizzare, whereas others believe that it alreaty happened.
    • In a way, if you replace "universe" with "our view of the universe", it's been true for quite some time...

  • something catastrophic could happen! yeah, crazy. catastrophic. what is it? well, it's bad. in the future. wow, what a problem! but it's boring. it's totally boring.

    seriously, could it be more generic? at least the nbc article mentions a false vacuum event. christ.

  • I don't wanna know.

    I'm not in favor of ignorance, but sometimes, it's better to live for what time we have and not depress ourselves with the toxic inevitable far-off doom that awaits us.

    Let us enjoy our lives free from meta-mortality.

  • by mark-t (151149) <`markt' `at' `lynx.bc.ca'> on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:09PM (#42949215) Journal
    I'm sort of suprised by this... I always thought that the universe, at 13.8 billion years, probably had several trillion to go. Now I find out that it's really just middle aged?
    • by bamberg (9311)
      Wait 'til the mid-life crisis starts. It won't be pretty.
    • If the theory of our universe being in the shape of a torus is correct we are near the end of this universe!

      So far all the theoretical data holds up, explaining the rapid expansion during the beginning of our universe using gravity and not "dark energy". As well as the reason we aren't swimming in equal parts anti-matter, the big bang ejected matter and anti-matter from it's two opposing poles (hmm this sounds familiar). Using the observed period of early rapid expansion the resulting estimated time we m
    • by jfengel (409917)

      It does strike me as unlikely, since other timelines of heat death put our doom on the order of 10^33 years (the half-life of proton) or perhaps 10^14 years (the end of star formation). A mere 10^10 or 10^11 is suprisingly quick.

      Still, I can think of one precedent for it, the "turning on" of dark energy, about 6 billion years ago. That suggests that the universe could still be undergoing changes on scales in the ten-billion-year range, so "many tens of billions" isn't completely unreasonable.

    • I'm sort of suprised by this... I always thought that the universe, at 13.8 billion years, probably had several trillion to go. Now I find out that it's really just middle aged?

      My days of not taking the universe seriously have about come to a middle - with apologies to Malcom Reynolds.

  • Don't worry (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:10PM (#42949237)

    This particle has already been banned in Kansas.

  • 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 gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:17PM (#42949329)

    At least, from your point of view.

  • But when I do, I predict things billions of years in the future.

    Stay sub-atomically stable, my friends.

  • 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.
  • Huh, interesting. Well if the universe is going to turn into a larger version of my bedroom, I hope I at least get to keep the Interwebs.
  • by jfdavis668 (1414919) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:29PM (#42949459)
    What do you expect from a type 13 planet?
  • I've been to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Been there, done that.

  • Typical. (Score:5, Funny)

    by grumling (94709) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:48PM (#42949707) Homepage

    Figures the week I make an offer on a house this has to come out. They could have let me live in blissful ignorance for a few days, but NOOOOOO!

    Damn Realtors and their lies about owning my own little part of the universe, forever if I want she said. LIES! FALSE WITNESS!

    And screw the HOA if they think I'm going to waste the short time I'm here on lawn maintenance.

  • 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).

  • That's a relief. For a minute there I thought he said "Millions".
  • 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.

    • 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.

Time to take stock. Go home with some office supplies.

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