While scientists are still busy working on the details needed to confirm last year's much celebrated discovery of the Higgs boson, they are already hinting at one of its more far reaching implications.
According to Space.com, the mass of the Higgs boson discovered in July 2012 at the world's largest particle accelerator facility, the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, may yet spell the doom of our universe.
The discovery of the theoretical Higgs boson or what may yet turn out a real-life version different from the theoretical particle, has allowed scientists to begin extending theoretical research.
Scientists had considered the question of the long term stability of the universe long before the announcement of the discovery of the Higgs boson. But precise calculations require an estimate of the mass of the Higgs to within one percent accuracy, as well as the precise mass of other related subatomic particles.
Lykkens said: "You change any of these parameters to the Standard Model (of particle physics) by a tiny bit and you get a different end of the universe."
According to theoretical physicists, if the Higgs mass were just a few percent different, the picture of the universe's future changes drastically.
But now, based on the indications that the Higgs boson is about 126 billion electron volts, or about 126 times the mass of the proton, scientists are saying that the universe may just be fundamentally unstable, and that it may run into a catastrophic end in the future.
According to Reuters, Joseph Lykken, a theoretical physicist with the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, who is on the science team at Europe's Large Hadron Collider(LHC), told reporters: "If you use all the physics that we know now and you do what you think is a straightforward calculation, it's bad news."
Lykken, speaking before he formally presented his research work at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting ongoing in Boston, said: "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."
Physicists last year announced what they believe is the elusive Higgs boson, Digital Journal reported. The Higgs boson is believed to give matter its mass. According to Digital Journal, Lykken said at the time that the Higgs boson "gets at the center for some physicists, of why the universe is here in the first place." He described the Higgs particle or its field equivalent as "an energy field that spreads out in the whole universe. He explained that particles moving in the Higgs field experience it as a kind of sticky molasses that slows them down and keeps them from moving at the speed of light." According to Lykken, "without the slowing down effect of the Higgs field, particles would travel through space at the speed of light and would, therefore, be unable to bind together to form atoms that make up material objects in the universe."
According to Digital Journal,
"Some experts use the analogy of a snowfield to explain how the Higgs confers mass on particles. The Higgs boson is conceived of as associated with an energy field through which particles travel.The effect of the Higgs field on particles is likened to the effect on persons passing through a 'snowfield' depending on whether they are wearing 'skis, snowshoes or just shoes.'"
Immediately after the media fanfare that accompanied the discovery, the work needed to study the myriad of subatomic phenomena related to the Higgs that will help to sharpen focus on its properties began in earnest and is ongoing. Physicists say if the discovery is confirmed it will help to resolve questions about how the universe came into existence about 13.7 billion years ago and may also give insight into how it will end.
Space.com reports that Christopher Hill, theoretical physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, said: "The mass of the Higgs is related to how stable the vacuum is. It's right along the critical line. That could either be a cosmic coincidence, or it could be that there's some physics that's causing that. That's something new, which we didn't know before."
Reuters reports Lykken said: "This calculation tells you that many tens of billions of years from now, there'll be a catastrophe. A little bubble of what you might think of as an ‘alternative' universe will appear somewhere and then it will expand out and destroy us." He said the castastrophic event would happen at the speed of light, suggesting that the catastrophe itself will take billions of years to unfold, according to Einstein's relativity theory."
But Lykken assures that any observer at any spacetime locality "won't actually see it [that is, the catastrophic end], because it will come at you at the speed of light. So in that sense don't worry."
But really, no one need worry about the catastrophic end of the universe billions of years from now because the Earth itself would have long gone. Physicists estimate that our Sun will run out of nuclear fuel in 4.5 billion years, grow into a red giant, and engulf the Earth in the process