Could the Higgs mass determine the end of the universe?

Feb 28, 2013 by Jonathan Carroll & Lewis Tunstall
Annihilation of the universe is guaranteed to burst your bubble. Lu Lacerda

You may have heard in the recent media that the world was going to end. Uh, again. Worse still, the devastation wasn't limited to Earth; the whole universe might end. Bad news, right? And you thought 2012 was the year to mark on your calendar.

The science behind the latest prediction isn't particularly new – it was even the plot of a sci-fi novel as long as a decade ago. What is fairly new is the connection to the recently-measured Higgs boson mass at the , but we'll come back to that. For now, we need to talk about metastable (temporarily stable) states.

Let's imagine you're at a party with a large group of friends. It's getting late and there wasn't enough food, so it's time to either order in a pizza or head out to a restaurant. Right now, you and your friends are in a metastable energy state – you're not sure what option to go for, and it would only take a slight nudge in one direction to convince everyone to go a particular way ("the garlic bread at that one cafe is worth the trip!").

The are all lower energy states – you'll all sit down and eat one way or another, and things naturally tend towards lower energy states. Once one person goes, or makes the call to the pizza place, the party's over: everyone's going to get some food.

So how does this tie in with the end of the universe (aside from the garlic bread not living up to its praise)? According to quantum theory, it's possible that the lowest energy state of our universe – when there's nothing but isn't the lowest possible state of all.

In this picture, there exists an even lower energy state, one that our universe could transition to. That might not sound too ominous until you learn that in the lower , all the protons in all the matter in the universe decay, with the unfortunate side effect that we cease to exist.

Worse still, the transition could happen at any time, anywhere in the universe, and expand at from a tiny bubble until it annihilates the entire universe as we know it, which would be, you know, bad.

Recently, this idea was re-examined within the context of the Standard Model of Particle Physics – the modern of subatomic particles and their interactions. Precise calculations dictate that the stability of our universe is intimately connected to the mass of the Higgs boson (and the top quark), a parameter which – thanks to the efforts of Large Hadron Collider – is now known to be about 125 GeV.

It is the conclusions of this re-examination that have raised a furore in the media: the Standard Model predicts that for our universe to be stable, the Higgs mass needs to be larger than 129.4 ± 5.6 GeV, so it only just fits within the uncertainties.

Ergo the end is nigh, at least in the units of time that cosmologists work with. But don't stock your matter-collapsing-proof shelter just yet – those time scales are billions to trillions of years.

There are of course, as always, objections to unfavourable conclusions. The main issue is that there are very good reasons to believe the Standard Model provides an incomplete description of our universe.

For starters, it doesn't include gravity, the experimentally observed neutrino masses, or explain the nature of the ever elusive dark matter.

These glaring omissions have driven theoretical physicists to construct myriad extensions to the Standard Model that introduce new states of matter. What's important is that these additional states can easily change the conclusions about the stability of our universe.

In models where there are two Higgs fields, the interactions between these fields can lead to a different set of energy states from that which the predicts.

If the universe does indeed contain multiple Higgs fields, there are indications from data collected at the Large Hadron Collider that it's very unlikely we live in a metastable regime, and that we're safe.

You might ask what use a theory is that describes the end of the universe, particularly one that predicts it so far in the future that our sun will long since have fizzled out (and in the process obliterated all life on Earth). The best answer we can give is that this is fundamental research into the nature of our universe, and possibly of other universes.

It's impossible to tell what we'll learn about from looking into this, but it's important that we do. Had we not looked into General Relativity, we wouldn't have the GPS systems our world relies on so delicately.

Is there much point worrying about something we won't even see coming? Perhaps not, but it's certainly remarkable that a cosmological question of this nature can be probed by a laboratory experiment on Earth. The notion that we could learn something about another possible , otherwise intangible by definition, is truly amazing.

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User comments : 36

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Disproselyte
3.6 / 5 (14) Feb 28, 2013
Well written vulgarisation, serious matter simplified and stuffed with funny interludes, self-relativating and motivating, stimulates curiosity.
Thanks!
antialias_physorg
3.5 / 5 (8) Feb 28, 2013
Since we don't even know yet whether there's only one Higgs I think it's a bit early to fret.
Also I'm not sure if the decay into a lower energy state in one place would automatically spread. Sure close-by states would be likely to decay to the lower state, but that likelyhood is dependent on the difference in energy. So if the difference is very low then even such a metastable state could go on for a very long time (and the spread from such a 'seedpoint' could be much slower than the speed of light)

And if we're including that due to expansion there will one day be places in the universe that are beyond their respective horizons - then even a light-speed-like bubbling of a new universe will never be able to encompass all of this universe.

Then again: if the garlic bread in the new universe is better then I say "go for it".
ant_oacute_nio354
1.2 / 5 (19) Feb 28, 2013
The Higgs particle doesn't exist, the mass is an electric dipole moment of the particles. The universe is eternal.

Antonio Saraiva
vacuum-mechanics
1.2 / 5 (17) Feb 28, 2013
In models where there are two Higgs fields, the interactions between these fields can lead to a different set of energy states from that which the Standard Model predicts.
If the universe does indeed contain multiple Higgs fields, there are indications from data collected at the Large Hadron Collider that it's very unlikely we live in a metastable regime, and that we're safe.

Multiple Higgs fields? It seems too early to think of, while up to now we still do not understand what the single conventional Higgs fields is! Maybe this explanation could give some hint.
http://www.vacuum...=9〈=en
Nanowill
1.2 / 5 (17) Feb 28, 2013
Why does silliness like this get published when serious papers do not? Oh! I see, it's all part of the increasingly transparent spin effort to justify the LHC. I guess it's a coincidence the Higgs mass is nominally 1/alpha the proton mass.
The Higgs has contributed nothing to our basic knowledge and I believe it never will. And the above paper, I quote "it's not even wrong".
verkle
1 / 5 (8) Feb 28, 2013
The end of the world (not necessarily the universe) has been predicted for 2000 years and surely we are getting closer to it. It won't be funny for many when it does come.

hcnap
2.6 / 5 (7) Mar 01, 2013
Instead of wasting time,money and effort in researching things like this they should focus on finding ways to avert real threats to earth such as the near earth asteroids
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (8) Mar 01, 2013
Instead of wasting time,money and effort in researching things like this they should focus on finding ways to avert real threats to earth such as the near earth asteroids

You are asking people skilled in microsocopy to build bombs?

Despite what Hollywood may show you on the silver screen: Just because someone is a scientists does not mean he/she is automatically capable of doing significant works in any field of science beyond his/her specialty.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (9) Mar 01, 2013
The more money we could keep for useful research activity.

It is useful research activity. You have to do fundamental research or your technological development will eventually grind to a halt.
but the theorists who are speculating about nonsenses are useless completely.

The theorists also don't really cost any significant money. Give a string theorists a pencil and a whiteboard and he's good.
While the chance that something comes of it is remote, the impact if something DOES come of it is enormous.

You always have to balance cost, benefit and likelyhood of success. And especially the last one is always guesswork since we're dealing with stuff no one has done before.
antialias_physorg
4.1 / 5 (9) Mar 01, 2013
The research of magnetic motors and cold fusion is more useful,

That's why - in it's time- plenty of money was thrown at it. It didn't work out so people stopped throwing money at it.
That's just sensible investment strategy.
(And if nothing will come of string theory then eventually thatone will go the way of the Dodo, as well)
They actually consume most of resources (LHC, gravitational wave detectors, dark matter searches).

And you may have noticed that the LHC already has produced significant results. Certainly not every experiment will pan out - but if it did then it wouldn't be an experiment but engineering. we're dealing with science here. That's a pretty fundamental difference.

The ratio of expenses and potential contributions are incomparable

Agreed. Throwing a dollar to cold fusion for no gain is a very bad idea.
Throwing a trillion dollars at the LHC for fundamental understanding that will shape the next age of technology is a very good idea
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (8) Mar 01, 2013
plenty of money was thrown at it. It didn't work out..
You have no evidence for it in peer reviewed press - end of story.


From:
http://en.wikiped..._fallout

- "In August 1989, in spite of this trend, the state of Utah invested $4.5 million to create the National Cold Fusion Institute"
- "and the contract with Pons was not renewed in 1998 after spending $40 million with no tangible results"
- "The IMRA laboratory was closed in 1998 after spending £12 million on cold fusion work"
- "Between 1992 and 1997, Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry sponsored a "New Hydrogen Energy (NHE)" program of US$20 million to research cold fusion"
- "U.S. Navy researchers at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR) in San Diego have been studying cold fusion since 1989."
- "A grant of $5.5 million given by Sidney Kimmel in February 2012 to the University of Missouri... "

Want more?

Q-Star
3.2 / 5 (11) Mar 01, 2013
but the theorists who are speculating about nonsenses are useless completely


Zeph, the nontheorists who are speculating about senses are useful completely how?

So would ya be in the theorist speculating on nonsenses group?

Or would ya be in the nontheorist speculating on senses group?
Q-Star
3.5 / 5 (11) Mar 01, 2013
The theorists also don't really cost any significant money.
They actually consume most of resources (LHC, gravitational wave detectors, dark matter searches).


Zephyr, ya need to look up the difference between an experimental physicist and a theoretical physicist.
Q-Star
3.4 / 5 (10) Mar 01, 2013
plenty of money was thrown at it. It didn't work out..
You have no evidence for it in peer reviewed press - end of story.


Zephyr, there is a big difference between "no evidence for in peer reviewed press" and what ya meant to say, "I don't like what the peer reviewed press reported".
Maggnus
3.4 / 5 (5) Mar 01, 2013
The lack of rational approach implies the religious attitude here.


Just yours Zephyr.
Moebius
3.4 / 5 (5) Mar 03, 2013
My money would be on the Higgs eventually matching the required mass. So either the 129.4 GeV will move or the 125 GeV mass of the Higgs will move or they'll meet in the middle, they are a match within the fairly large margin of error already.
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (7) Mar 03, 2013
In AWT the Universe is the more random, the wider/more general scope is used for its observation. Such an Universe is infinite, eternal and therefore it cannot end.
ValeriaT
1.6 / 5 (7) Mar 03, 2013
there is a big difference between "no evidence for in peer reviewed press" and what ya meant to say, "I don't like what the peer reviewed press reported"
Show me some peer-reviewed publication about magnetic motors, hydrogen fusion at nickel or dense aether model of Oliver Lodge - so we can decide, whether it's the experimental proof documented or just lack of peer-reviewed replications and ignorance, which prohibited the spreading of these findings. Until you provide no link which would prove your stance, my claims about it remain perfectly valid.
Maggnus
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 03, 2013
Why Zephyr, so you can ignore it as soon as you move to the next article in line to apply more of your pseudoscientific psycho-babble?

Lurker2358
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 03, 2013
And you may have noticed that the LHC already has produced significant results.


Actually, they're not sure they're significant, as the identity and properties of the particles is as yet unknown.

Agreed. Throwing a dollar to cold fusion for no gain is a very bad idea.


NASA seems to think LENR is feasible and will eventually be possible.

Michio Kaku seems convinced room temperature super-conductors are inevitable. Why not invest in that research, as it would be worth tens of trillions, maybe hundred trillions, in return within a few decades of discovery?


Throwing a trillion dollars at the LHC for fundamental understanding that will shape the next age of technology is a very good


Not really. Practical applications are likely centuries, if not millennium away. What conceivable machine could actually USE Higgs Particles to do useful work more efficiently, that is, if they even exist?!
ValeriaT
1.7 / 5 (6) Mar 03, 2013
Fortunately, our clever physicists invented the way, how to save our Universe in just two weeks later: Physics News of the Week: Getting Around the Uncertainty Principle and The Fate of the Universe. We are safe now... :-) Isn't it a similar to the way, in which Mayan priests turned away the solar eclipse and the threat of end of world in the movie Apocalypto?
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (4) Mar 04, 2013
Actually, they're not sure they're significant, as the identity and properties of the particles is as yet unknown.

Does it matter what particle it is? A new particle has been detected. If that doesn't count as 'significant' in your book I can't help you.

NASA seems to think LENR is feasible and will eventually be possible.

So what areyou griping about. If NASA thinks so, and keeps on funding it, then that's their business.

Michio Kaku seems convinced room temperature super-conductors are inevitable. Why not invest in that research

Hello? Are you reading the articles on physorg at all? Research in that area is going on at full speed.

And no: this isn't the movies where you say "let's invent a room temperature superconductor and not do any work that this may be based on". This is real life. Before you get to room temperature you have to get there in small steps from what we know how to do (which are low temp superconductors).
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (6) Mar 04, 2013
Practical applications are likely centuries, if not millennium away. What conceivable machine could actually USE Higgs Particles

You know: A certain fellow named Einstein (who was a LOT smarter than you) said about lasers not 100 years ago when he first noticed that coherent radiation was possible (in theory): they were an interesting curiosity without any practical applications

Look at what we use lasers for now (it's probably easier to list all the applications we DONT use lasers for)

What conceivable machine could actually USE Higgs Particles to do useful work more efficiently, that is, if they even exist

That's an easy one: If the Higgs truly conveys mass, the control of the Higgs field could give us inertialess drives (which means in laymen's terms: faster than light travel without using much energy). Is that worth it? I'd think so.
vlaaing peerd
2.5 / 5 (2) Mar 04, 2013
the universe resembles the Gouda-cheese-hole model where the higgfield resembles the yellow stuff between the holes giving mass to the cheese. It is very important to note that the holes in the cheese do not carry mass but do contribute to the expansion of space-time(-cheese), which can be resembled as dark energy. In the utter end state of the universe mass will become all funghii-ish blue and fuzzy, left to be consumed by the the Swiss and the French. Considered they are known to be terrible nitpickers and able to eternaly discuss about their cheese-consuming habits, the universe will therefore never end.
antialias_physorg
3.4 / 5 (5) Mar 04, 2013
We have no mechanism, how to prioritize important research

We do.
The grants comittees are advised by scientists. Scientists who have a good idea what is possible and what isn't. They also have to take into account a balance between what might yield short term benefits to an economy and what is important for long term scientific progress.

physicists itself is apparently not able to judge it in objective way.

So people with no education whatsoever - like yourself - should set the guidelines? Seriously? I mean...seriously?

This is science and research we're talking about. This is about stuff we haven't done yet (or it would be engineering/development). Yes: Occasionally the advisory boards will get it wrong. That can't be helped with something that is inherently unknown.

The 'important' stuff you name is just stuff that didn't work. It was given it's chance (and more than that). End of story. If you want it funded, fund it yourself.
antialias_physorg
3.4 / 5 (5) Mar 04, 2013
This is just the problem - the scientists will always support the research, which is supporting the scientists

I think you miss the point where
a) most senior scientists have tenure. So they couldn't care less whether their patricular field is en vogue or not
b) scientists who do not have tenure aren't afraid of losing their jobs when grants run out. They have enormous skillsets that are sought after in the industry (and most have the skill to shift into other areas of science). The average number of days a researcher would be jobless you can count on one hand.

Why not, if they're educated enough for to pay it?

So you should set military doctrine? Draw up battle plans Or you should draw up plans for desaster response? Or any other type of endeavour that is inherently unknown but in which you have no skills at all? That's ludicrous.

If you want scientific policy changed then vote for a party that changes it.
antialias_physorg
3.4 / 5 (5) Mar 04, 2013
"It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong."

Agreed. And cold fusion doesn't agree with experiment.
The mainstream physics simply "forgot" to publish unsuccessful experiments in mainstream press.

It is hard to publish unsuccessful experiments.
Publishing takes a lot of work (Several months worth in which you aren't doing science). So you usually think carefully about whether you publish or not. You don't publish as a matter of course every X months. If you have nothing to publish except for: "We tried X and it didn't work" then you usually don't publish.
Instead you go on working until you
a) Have to concede that it didn't work and go on to do something else
or
b) You find something worth publishing in what you did and then publish it.
Q-Star
3.3 / 5 (11) Mar 05, 2013
Richard P. Feynman: "It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong."


Zeph, I love that quote, I use it all the time. But I would think it one ya would try to run from. One that I would think ya would like to have never been made, especially by a man as smart as Feynman.
Q-Star
3.2 / 5 (9) Mar 05, 2013
So people with no education whatsoever - like yourself - should set the guidelines?
Why not, if they're educated enough for to pay it? It's their money, not the money of scientists. If we can give the money for speculations,


I find it hard to believe that ya are educated enough to pay for it. How much is your education allowing to pay each year?

why not to give the money for verification of all perspective ideas?


How much money do ya think there is in the world? And how many "perspective{sic} ideas" do ya think get thought each day?

Instead of all the inclusive "mainstream neglects the good ideas", why don't ya be honest with yourself, and us,,, and proclaim "Everyone is neglecting Zephyr's ideas."

By the By: Ya might want to delve into what "mainstream" entails, what it means at heart,,,, once ya knew that, it would answer so many of your questions. (Pssst, a hint,,, it's not a bad thing, it's a good thing.)
ValeriaT
1.6 / 5 (7) Mar 05, 2013
And cold fusion doesn't agree with experiment.
Only theory cannot agree with experiment, not the denomination of experimental result.
And how many "perspective{sic} ideas" do ya think get thought each day?
Perspective ideas? Very little. Verification means the replication of experiments published already. For example, in 1926 Kurt Peters a Friedrich Paneth observed the evolution of helium after bombarding of palladium with hydrogen plasma. Why it was never attempted to replicate?
Q-Star
3.2 / 5 (9) Mar 05, 2013
Perspective ideas? Very little.


What is a perspective idea",, it's your term, not mine.

For example, in 1926 Kurt Peters a Friedrich Paneth observed the evolution of helium after bombarding of palladium with hydrogen plasma.


I have absolutely no idea what that might mean.

Why it was never attempted to replicate?


I don't know that it wasn't.

But for the sake of argument, maybe no one else knows what the "evolution of helium" means either.

My second guess is that maybe the Illuminati sent the Templars out to suppress such a heretical "perspective idea".

Why do ya think it was never attempted to replicate?
ValeriaT
1.6 / 5 (7) Mar 05, 2013
no one else knows what the "evolution of helium" means either
Why do you think, nobody knows what it means? Because it's just you, who don't know, what it means?
Q-Star
3.2 / 5 (9) Mar 05, 2013
no one else knows what the "evolution of helium" means either
Why do you think, http://en.wikiped...reaction what it means? Because it's just you, who don't know, what it means?


So bombarding palladium with hydrogen ions evolves helium?
So your link doesn't seem to relate to that,,, would ya like to try again?

Or just go with my second guess: The Illuminati sent the Templars out to suppress the "perspective ideas" and prevent the "replication of experiments published already,,,,,,, in 1926 Kurt Peters a Friedrich Paneth observed the evolution of helium after bombarding of palladium with hydrogen plasma."
Maggnus
4 / 5 (4) Mar 05, 2013
DOES GOD PARTICLE EXPLAIN UNIVERSE'S ORIGIN? Just google the title to access this popular Internet article of mine.Babu G. Ranganathan*(B.A. Bible/Biology)


Oh goodie, just what this thread needs. **Ducks, looks around** Now where the hell is cantdrive55? Hiding in here somewhere I'm sure.
Maggnus
4 / 5 (4) Mar 05, 2013
In AWT the Universe is the more random, the wider/more general scope is used for its observation. Such an Universe is infinite, eternal and therefore it cannot end.


Nor, it appears, can your ignorance and arrogance.
SethD
1 / 5 (5) Mar 05, 2013
The Higgs groupies are at it again this week in Italy -- to try to outperform the election of a new pope. So they chose a most evil way: they'll try to steal one historic moment. Angels and Demons, live rerun. Who's going to be, God or His particle? Oh how exciting... not.

Brace for impact with another set of the groupies': dodging, fairytales, open manipulation, patching up, swindles, outright lies, beautification, wild assumptions, bad jokes, hand-waving... Add to that a bunch of corrupt media, and the stage is set to sell to the unsuspecting taxpayer the "Higgs": the biggest lie ever told in all of history.

Honey-money.