Monday, November 04, 2013

End of the World as we Know it.

Higgs vacuum transition edition.

The excellent Denis Overbye has a nice article in the NYT on where physics (and the universe) might go from here.

As Joseph Lykken, a theorist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and Maria Spiropulu, of the California Institute of Technology, put it in a new paper reviewing the history and future of the Higgs boson:

“Taken at face value, the result implies that eventually (in 10^100 years or so) an unlucky quantum fluctuation will produce a bubble of a different vacuum, which will then expand at the speed of light, destroying everything.”

The idea is that the Higgs field could someday twitch and drop to a lower energy state, like water freezing into ice, thereby obliterating the workings of reality as we know it. Naturally, we would have no warning. Just blink and it’s over.

End times are part of a science reporter’s stock in trade, of course. The death of the sun, dark energy sucking galaxies, greenhouse gas catastrophes, comets and asteroids boiling the oceans, apocalyptic earthquakes and plagues are regularly paraded through these pages.

And more about the state of physics.