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False Vacuum Theory

If, or when, the Higgs Field becomes metastable, we won't be able to turn back; we won't even know it's coming.

By Sarah McDanielPublished 5 years ago 2 min read

Coming to the realization that there just might be a "start over" button for the entire universe can be pretty unnerving... not knowing for sure whether the physics we use in our world today are legitimate is even more terrifying. Yet here I am with another unproven theory. This one's about the evolving False Vacuum Theory.

To begin to understand why this theory is plausible, we need to first bring our attention to the differences between a true and false vacuum, starting with energy levels. Everything has an energy level; the higher the level, the more energy in in the system. Anything that can be burned, for instance, has a high level. Once it is burned, it then releases the chemical energy stored in its molecular bonds and turns it into heat. The ash left over is at a lower energy level than before.

A scalar field φ in a false vacuum. Note that the energy E is higher than that in the true vacuum or ground state, but there is a barrier preventing the field from classically rolling down to the true vacuum. Therefore, the transition to the true vacuum must be stimulated by the creation of high-energy particles or through quantum-mechanical tunneling. via Wikipedia

EVERYTHING in the universe contains different amounts of energy. Regardless, everything also coheres to the concept of stability. All matter want to become stable. In order to do this, the subject must contain as little energy as possible. This is true for every system, even in the confusing and weird world of quantum mechanics. The universe gets its properties from quantum fields. Quantum fields permeate particles with certain properties, such as how particles interact and behave. However, they too want to travel to a lower energy state, which here would be called a vacuum state.

A computer image of a Higgs interaction via Wikipedia

But, in certain instances, becoming "metastable" can occur. Rather than being a vacuum, the Higgs Field retains large amounts of energy that it cannot free itself of. Which, in turn, eventually results in a false vacuum—AKA, it's unstable. If this instability is able to absorb more energy, it will inevitably get to a point where it no longer has open capacity and thus hurdle towards chaos and destroy everything in existence.

Illustration by Kamran Samimi via Vice

And if that didn't quite get you going, there's more! If the energy of the Higgs Field were to change, it would alter all of physics drastically. It would be like starting from scratch on everything from how chemicals react, how different particles behave, or even how atoms hold together, overthrowing chemistry as a whole. We simply have no idea what it would be like. It might be a glimmer or shadow of what it is now; or maybe not. Who knows?

For now it seems like the Higgs Field is sustaining a relatively low energy state. Some people believe it's slowly morphing to a high energy state and will inevitably trigger vacuum decay. Once the Higgs Field becomes metastable, the vacuum bubble moves along destroying atoms, turning everything it encounters into hydrogen. If, or when, the Higgs Field becomes metastable, we won't be able to turn back; we won't even know it's coming. The sphere will spread, exchanging everything it comes in contact with to hydrogen and annihilating atoms.


About the Creator

Sarah McDaniel

Bringing the strange and scientific to your smartphone. @krotchy

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