How to Destroy the Entire Universe

Since the dawn of time man has yearned to destroy the sun. – C. M. Burns

There’s no need to stop at the Sun, though. Since yesterday was Earth day, I thought it was only appropriate to spend today telling you how not only to destroy the Earth, but to effectively destroy the entire Universe. To tell you this story, we have to go all the way back to the beginning, to just before the big bang.

The big bang was when the Universe was hot, dense, full of energy, and expanding very quickly. The Universe was also spatially flat and the same temperature everywhere, and full of both matter and antimatter. It may have looked something like this:

Image credit: Stephen Van Vuuren, created from a simulation of 80,000 star images.

The thing is, we need something to make the Universe this way; we need something to set up the big bang. What makes the Universe flat? What forces the Universe to be the same temperature everywhere? What creates the fluctuations that allow stars, galaxies, and clusters to form from gravitational collapse? What pushes all the weird stuff that might have existed before the big bang away?

The best theory is cosmic inflation, or a theory that says that the Universe went through a period where space expanded exponentially fast. That expansion pushes everything that existed before away, removing it from what we know as our Universe. It takes whatever shape space is and stretches it flat. It takes a small, uniform area and stretches it, giving every point in our Universe the same temperature. And it takes tiny, quantum-scale fluctuations and stretches them across the Universe, creating those fluctuations that allow the formation of stars, galaxies, and clusters. It even gave the correct predictions for the amplitude and spectrum of those fluctuations, more than a decade before we were able to measure them!

So to destroy the Universe, all we have to do is make one tiny point near us expand exponentially fast again, even just for a tiny fraction of a second (~ 10-30 seconds), and that will remove everything we know of entirely, creating a new Universe in its wake. Kind of like a Phoenix (left).

Some of you may object. You may say that it’s wrong to do this; that this would be playing God. Look, people, if you want to destroy the Universe, there are some things you’re just going to have to suck up.

So how do we do this? In some sense, it’s as simple as pushing a ball up a hill; you just need enough energy. All we have to do is make the particle that causes inflation, called an inflaton, with enough energy to make the Universe inflate again. For instance, if we made an inflaton at the low energies we’re used to in big accelerators (you know, like 1012 Electron-Volts), we couldn’t get it out of the bottom of the valley that it’s stuck in, like this:

In fact, supermassive black holes produce cosmic rays that are about 1020 Electron-Volts, so we know we need more energy than that. But if we can get up to about 1026 Electron-Volts, we’re sure to do it. “Do it” means push that inflaton up the hill; push it up high enough, and you get inflation! And that’s how you destroy the Universe!

All you need is a bigger particle accelerator or stronger magnetic fields. We can get up to 1012 eV with a ring with 4 Tesla magnets and about a 1 km radius. So we’d really need a ring with a 1014 km radius (and the same magnetic field) to do this, or an accelerator ring about the radius of our distance to the nearest star. So support your particle physics research and the development of stronger magnetic fields, otherwise we’ll be doomed to celebrate many more Earth days!

Interesting note: Some of you were upset by my post that said string theory is untestable in principle. All you have to do is build a powerful enough accelerator. Guess what, the energy it takes to destroy the Universe like this is less than the energy it takes to test string theory (which is 1028 Electron-Volts). Have a nice day!

Comments

  1. #1 benhead
    April 23, 2008

    It’s not the first we’ve heard about an expanding bubble of true vacuum wiping out our universe – just ask an LHC alarmist (or go back a few years and ask a RHIC alarmist) – but isn’t it entirely possible (or even likely) that our universe is already at the true minimum vacuum energy?

  2. #2 ethan
    April 23, 2008

    It’s definitely possible, it is perhaps likely (although that wouldn’t explain the cosmological constant). But being in a true minimum doesn’t mean you’re stuck there forever; put enough energy in and you can get out of it. And if we can get back into a false minimum, well, that’s how you get inflation again.

  3. #3 Scott
    April 23, 2008

    If you actually managed to pull this off, wouldn’t it create a “baby universe” inside what appears to us to be a tiny volume? It isn’t like the solar system or even the planet would expand to the size of a new universe, it would be some minuscule volume inside the particle accelerator.

  4. #4 benhead
    April 23, 2008

    Why would getting from a true to a false minimum cause the same outward ripple effect? Doesn’t the vacuum, like everything else in nature, tend towards the lowest energy level? So wouldn’t a bubble of false minimum in surroundings of a true (or any lower) minimum be immediately collapsed, rather than expanding?

  5. #5 Ban
    April 23, 2008

    Okay lets simplify this a bit shall we. Here is the history of the Universe.

    In the beginning there was nothing, and nothing exploded and created the universe. Matter of large size was shaped into spheres due to gravity (go newton), some planets created life which evolved into various things. On one of these planets man eventually emerged. Man was smart, invented the Hadron Collider, and subsequently destroyed the universe by creating a super massive black hole by slamming particles together. The universe collapsed in on itself and re-exploded…further pushing space outward and once recreating the universe.

    Wash, Rinse, Repeat

  6. #6 ethan
    April 23, 2008

    So, Scott, no. It isn’t like the solar system or the planet would expand to the size of a new Universe. A tiny volume of space inside the accelerator would. But it doesn’t make a baby Universe, it causes a very miniscule part of our Universe to expand incredibly rapidly and violently. We’d be right on the edge of it, just a few light years away, with a spectacular view of what the birth of a new Universe looks like. And yes, we would essentially “inflate away” stuff that was even in our own galaxy!

    Benhead, it does tend towards the lowest energy level. It may get there quickly, in a fraction of a second. But if you get stuck in a false minimum for even, like I said, 10-30 seconds, that’s enough time for that bubble to expand to more than the size of our current Universe. It will “collapse” in the sense that the field values will go back to the minimum in good time, but it is crucially dependent on whether that time is short enough to not matter, or large enough to destroy the known Universe. That’s the difference between 10-40 seconds and 10-30 seconds. Frighteningly enough.

    And Ban, there’s no “nothing” before the big bang, we don’t know what there was. Inflation is the best answer we have. But it isn’t making black holes that could end up destroying the Universe and creating a new one; it’s getting the inflaton out of its minimum.

  7. #7 Ban
    April 23, 2008

    Okay, so since science doesn’t know what was present before the big bang, we might as well use the term nothing, or hey how about “cupcakes”. In the beginning there was cupcakes and cupcakes exploded and created the universe.

    Now cupcakes could be an ACTUAL cupcake or say, the name of a cosmic cat. It doesn’t matter either way.

    Anywho I think your skirting around the fact that the Hadron Collider will destroy humanity this June when they fire up those liquid helium cooled super conducting magnets and slam some large particles into each other.

    FUCK YEAH!

  8. #8 ethan
    April 23, 2008

    Well, Ban, like I said, 1020 electron-Volts of energy doesn’t pose any danger, like we get from cosmic rays. The top energies from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) are 1013 electron-Volts, over 10 million times weaker. You can freak out about it if you like, but I’m telling you, if you want to destroy the world (or Universe), you’ve got to do it right.

  9. #9 UF Mike
    April 25, 2008

    If you had extra compactified dimensions, could the inflaton mass be closer to TeV scale?

  10. #10 ethan
    April 25, 2008

    Well, in principle, you can have TeV inflation. But here’s the problem, cosmic rays routinely make energies of 107 TeV and up. If we had TeV inflation, one of those many events would have triggered it, and we would’ve noticed it. Luckily, we don’t have TeV inflation.

  11. #11 UF Mike
    April 25, 2008

    Since I haven’t noticed my own annihilation, I guess I’ll have to agree with your premise.

  12. #12 mark a. thomas
    May 1, 2008

    I am mystified. Was not the inflaton played out during the reheat phase? Are you saying that any accelerator (i.e.LHC) pushes the inflaton up the slope a little? How is this accounted for? Does the design need to go back to the drawing board?

  13. #13 mark a. thomas
    May 1, 2008

    Never mind what I said above. You qualified it by saying if the inflaton particle could be made. I should go back to school.

  14. #14 jack
    June 3, 2008

    Can nuclear or antimatter destroy universe?
    how many energy should we needto destroy universe?

  15. #15 ethan
    June 3, 2008

    Nuclear energy? No way. But antimatter? Well, there are about 10^80 protons of matter in the Universe, so we’d need about that much antimatter, or about 10^23 SUNs worth of antimatter to destroy all the matter in the Universe. That is a lot of energy to do it that way…

  16. #16 jack
    June 3, 2008

    How many tons of antimatter in one sun or our sun?

  17. #17 ethan
    June 3, 2008

    Well, our Sun is about 1027 tons, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons of normal matter. If we wanted to annihilate it, it would take the exact same amount of antimatter. If you take all the antimatter we’ve ever made in laboratories on Earth, it is not even one microgram of antimatter. So we’re safe from that one.

  18. #18 jack
    June 4, 2008

    This 10^27 tons of sun,is this the energy of sun that need to become supernova but our sun is not going to explode like that,right?So that means much smaller energy?

  19. #19 jack
    June 4, 2008

    What energy we need to destroy the earth’s moon?

  20. #20 ethan
    June 4, 2008

    Supernova are much, much weaker than that. They don’t destroy stars, either, they’re just the start of the next phase of their lives, either as neutron stars or black holes. But the matter is still all there; only a tiny fraction gets emitted as energy.

    The moon is about 100,000,000 times less massive than the Sun, so only 1019 tons of antimatter. This is why I propose being clever: the subtle way of destroying the whole Universe requires less energy than any of these things!

  21. #21 jack
    June 5, 2008

    thank you!!

    another question
    A 1 pound of antimatter equates to how many megaton nuclear should we need?

  22. #22 ethan
    June 5, 2008

    If 1 pound of matter annihilated with 1 pound of antimatter, it would give off about 8 x 1016 Joules of energy, or the equivalent of a 19 or 20 Megaton nuclear explosion. Conventional (e.g., TNT) bombs aren’t that efficient; about 0.001% of their mass is converted into energy. Nuclear weapons are much better, about 0.5% efficient. But antimatter is 100% efficient.

  23. #23 jack
    June 5, 2008

    Thank you again!!

    Wow!!that’s too powerfull!!only 1 pound.

    So to destroy the whole universe we dont need this 10^23 SUNs means less energy than this?
    Can you give me the exact energy (bomb)?

  24. #24 ethan
    June 5, 2008

    That’s right, Jack. If we use this clever method above, we can destroy the entire Universe using about the amount of energy in 1 Sun (required to power the accelerator), and after a few decades, we should have sufficient energy to collide these particles and destroy the Universe. Umm… don’t try this at home!

  25. #25 jack
    June 5, 2008

    Afer a few decades how many energy we can gather in 1 sun?

  26. #26 jack
    June 5, 2008

    And if we have this energy 10^27 tons can this energy destroy the whole solar system or just the sun?

  27. #27 Michaela
    June 20, 2008

    Why would you want to destroy the universe.
    You really think that would work. Would you really destroy something so beautiful. Please find a way to destroy mankind. That is what needs to be destroyed. Please explain this to me

  28. #28 jack
    June 21, 2008

    That was a funny question.
    Im just curious.
    All i want is to learn not the destruction of it.

  29. #29 ethan
    June 23, 2008

    Some questions are fun to think about just to know if it’s possible, and what it would take. We’re a long way away from being able to do it.

    For all I know, though, 14 billion years ago there was an advanced civilization who decided to destroy their Universe for some reason or other, and they did just that, and the result created this one.

  30. #30 jack
    June 28, 2008

    tnx.
    What is the size of universe?

  31. #31 jack
    July 8, 2008

    Can atom be annihilate by 100 megatons nuclear?

  32. #32 ethan
    July 8, 2008

    Jack,

    That’s enough *energy* to annihilate an atom, that’s for sure. The question is how concentrated is that energy? To destroy an atomic nucleus, you need about 200 MeV of energy in one single photon. 200 MeV is waaaay less than a megaton, but typical nuclear explosions only produce photons on the order of 10 MeV in energy.

    And the Universe, from one end to the other, as far as we know, is about 46 billion light years.

    Ethan

  33. #33 jack
    July 8, 2008

    What do you mean by concentrated energy?
    In megaton nuclear how much MeV can produce?
    i mean the exact (MeV) and how to get that?

  34. #34 jack
    July 8, 2008

    did you used calculation to get the exact MeV?

  35. #35 ethan
    July 9, 2008

    Jack,

    If I did the exact calculation to destroy, say, a proton, it would be 227 MeV. If I just wanted to break a nucleus apart, it would depend on the nucleus; deuterium takes 2.2 MeV, helium takes 28 MeV, heavier elements take more.

    And 1 megaton is about 4 x 1015 Joules of energy, while 1 Joule is 6 x 1012 MeV. But it’s spread out among trillions and trillions of particles!
    Ethan

  36. #36 jack
    July 9, 2008

    That means the atom destroyed but it didn’t destroy completly and turn to ions?

  37. #37 jess
    August 16, 2008

    how much would all are planets, stars and sun weigh all together?

  38. #38 Tabish
    September 15, 2008

    big bang

  39. #39 Greg
    January 13, 2009

    so do you just wizz this particle round this enormous accelerater??, and is there any way to survive it so i could rule my new universe??

  40. #40 ethan
    January 13, 2009

    Jess,

    Our Solar system is about 2 x 10^30 kg. Our Milky Way Galaxy is about 10^42 kg. And all of the galaxies in the Universe, together, have a mass of about 10^54 kg, more or less. It’s massive, but not that massive.

    Greg,

    Yes, just “wizz” one particle (like an electron) in one direction around the circle and another one (its antiparticle, a positron) around in the opposite direction, collide them, and you’ve got it. I know of no way to get inside this new Universe. But perhaps, if you could figure it out, you can get in there.

  41. #42 Matthew Wayne Selznick
    November 26, 2009

    This is fascinating, and as a writer it really gets my imagination working overtime. One question occurs:

    Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the energy resulting from the inflaton-induced Big Bang could be harnessed / utilized as a power source. Would that new universe still exist? How much energy are we talking about?

    Okay, that’s two questions. Thanks for being so willing to tackle this and everyone else’s comments’ the comments thread is almost as enlightening as the post itself!

  42. #43 Miguel Felix
    Portugal
    February 1, 2013

    We should focus on how to destroy the entire universe.
    This universe Physic Laws are to much entropic. That’s why this is an evil and cruel existence where everything gets old and dies. Where everything fights to survive, where everything eats the less powefuls.
    I believe that Transmutalism is not possible in this kind of universe so, the nihil, the nothing is preferable unless we could create another universe with more life oriented physic laws.
    Maybe the antimatter bomb could be the solution to annihilate this universe but HOW to make it?? It should have the enough critical mass to destroy the whole universe or it will be a failure.