Stephen Hawking: "The Higgs Boson will destroy the universe"

English theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking says that the recently discovered Higgs Boson, also known as ‘God Particle’, will eventually destroy our universe. The warning comes in a preface Professor Hawking has written to ‘Starmus: 50 Years of Man in Space’, a new anthology of lectures by cosmologists edited by Garik Israelian and Brian May, assembled to celebrate the human exploration of space.

Writing in the foreword of the book, Stephen Hawking says: “The Higgs potential has the worrisome feature that it might become megastable at energies above 100 giga-electron-volts. This could mean that the universe could undergo catastrophic vacuum decay, with a bubble of the true vacuum expanding at the speed of light.” The professor continues: “This could happen at any time and we wouldn’t see it coming.”

‘Higgs Boson Doomsday’ could happen at any time and we wouldn’t see it coming.

Hawking is not the only scientist who thinks so. The theory of a ‘Higgs Boson Doomsday’, where a random quantum fluctuation creates a vacuum 'bubble' that expands through space and wipes out the universe, has existed in the scientific community for a while.

The Higgs Boson, named after British physicist Peter Higgs, one of the team of six physicists who predicted its existence in 1964, was discovered in 2012 by scientists at CERN – European research organization based near Geneva in Switzerland, that operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world.

The Higgs Boson particle is a manifestation of an energy field pervading the universe called the Higgs Field, which is thought to explain why particles have mass. Finding the Higgs Boson not only confirms the theory about how particles get mass, but it also allows scientists to make new calculations that weren’t possible before the particle’s properties were known.

The universe could undergo catastrophic decay, with a bubble of vacuum expanding at the speed of light, until it wipes out the entire universe. This can happen in the far future, or the bubble might be on its way here now.

For example, Higgs Boson’s mass is about 125 billion electron volts (125 GeV), or about 125 times the mass of the proton. Unfortunately, the mass of the new particle turns out to be just about what’s needed to make the universe fundamentally unstable, in a way that would cause it to end catastrophically sometime in the future.

That’s because the Higgs Field is thought to be everywhere, so it affects the vacuum of empty space-time in the universe.

The Higgs Field emerged at the birth of the universe and has acted as its own source of energy since then. Physicists believe the Higgs Field may be slowly changing as it tries to find an optimal balance of field strength and energy required to maintain that strength. An unlucky quantum fluctuation, or a change in energy, could trigger a process called quantum tunnelling.

This quantum fluctuation will happen somewhere out in the empty vacuum of space between galaxies, and will create a vacuum bubble, that will quickly begin expanding through the violent tunnelling process, at very nearly the speed of light, until it wipes out the entire universe.

“It may be the universe we live in is inherently unstable and at some point in the future it’s all going to get wiped out.” says Joseph Lykken, a theoretical physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, before continuing: “Most likely it will take 10 to the 100 years (a 1 followed by 100 zeroes) for this to happen, so probably you shouldn’t sell your house and you should continue to pay your taxes. On the other hand, it may already happened, and the bubble might be on its way here now. And you won’t know because it’s going at the speed of light so there’s not going to be any warning.”

Strikingly, if the Higgs Boson’s mass were just a few percent different, the universe wouldn’t be doomed, the scientists said.

The actual discovery of the Higgs Boson back in 2012 has no bearing on this revelation, the universe would be destroyed in this way whether we discovered the particle or not, only if we didn’t discover it, we wouldn’t be aware of this eventuality.

So now we know how the world will end (possibly). What a relief!