How to destroy the entire Universe (Synopsis)

“Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.” -Darth Vader

Supervillains always disappoint me. With ambitions like murdering a single human, destroying a city, or endangering all life on the planet, they're always thinking small. Where are the great, ambitious evildoers -- real or mythological -- seeking to destroy everything in all of existence?

Image credit: NASA/GSFC/Dana Berry. Image credit: NASA/GSFC/Dana Berry.

Recently, Stephen Hawking came out and proposed the following scenario: that the Higgs field exists in a metastable state, which might decay into a more stable one, destroying the Universe along with it. But is this at all probable, and if so, is there anything we can do about it?

Find out the truth behind the claims, along with a real way that we could, in a deliberate and controlled fashion, destroy the Universe ourselves should we choose to do so!

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Is it possible that the Higgs fell from a meta-stable state to a stable or meta-stable state already, like perhaps 13.8 billion years ago?

What would it "look like" inside such a bubble formed from such a transition?

By Blaise Pascal (not verified) on 25 Sep 2014 #permalink

Like Blaise @1, there was once a time when ridiculously high energiues were commonplace, and thats probably when the transition(s) happen(ed).

Now say you could actually do the new-inflationary episode experiment: you'd never know if you succeeded, because the destruction spreads a gazillion times faster than light. In some sense you would be a god (created a universe!), But you'd never know it!

So we could create a new theory of (cyclic?) multiverses. A universe goes on until someone with a god complex has enough capability to run the experiment, then that universe is replaced by a brand new one which evolves until the next mad-scientist destroys it.

By Omega Centauri (not verified) on 25 Sep 2014 #permalink

I feel angry about Hawking coming out with crap like this to pimp that book. It isn't the first time he's done this. The guy is a total loose cannon, a media darling on account of his medical condition, somebody who specializes in speculative hypotheses that can't be disproven, and somebody whose actual contribution to physics is scant. The Higgs mechanism is responsible for only 1% of the mass of matter, it's "frightfully ad hoc" according to Gian Guiduce, it's a "fairytale" according to Guido Altarelli, it contradicts E=mc²,
and there's no conclusive proof that the 2012 bump-on-a-graph "discovery" was actually a Higgs boson. But hey, let's wallow in woo until the public and politicians demand the shutdown of particle physics in case they destroy the universe. Result!

By johnduffield (not verified) on 25 Sep 2014 #permalink

@johnduffield,

I assume you have not looked at the math that went into this "bump-on-a-graph". There were multiple different production mechanisms (bumps on many different graphs) that were investigated by approximately 8000 people. There is a huge amount of proof that the particle found is indeed the Higgs Boson. https://twiki.cern.ch/twiki/bin/view/AtlasPublic

The 1% of the mass is one of the most vital parts. Sure, it sounds small, but the rest is just the relativistic effects of the gluons inside the nucleus and the 1% is intrinsic. If you do not include this Higgs mechanism then everything would be massless, everything could move at the speed of light.

We may all be wrong of course... and you and the two people you quoted may be right.

By Robert Reed (not verified) on 26 Sep 2014 #permalink

Robert: yes, you're wrong, because Einstein was right, because the mass of a body is a measure of its energy-content, because the wave nature of matter is beyond doubt. Which means it isn't the measure of its interaction with a field. If you want to walk around in a T-shirt with a crossed-out E=mc² on it, be my guest. But until then: photon momentum is a measure of resistance to change-in-motion for a wave propagating linearly at c, and electron mass is a measure of resistance to change-in-motion for a wave propagating in a closed path. It's that simple. If you like, the Higgs field is the photon field, it's cosmic elastic not cosmic treacle, the electron field is a bispinor configuration of it, and the "Higgs boson" gets its mass from the kinetic energy of the LHC protons. NB: gluons inside the nucleus are virtual.

By John Duffield (not verified) on 26 Sep 2014 #permalink

How reliable are the ideas about metastable Higgs field? As far as I know, these ideas have origin in SM calculation of Higgs potential and the "stable" point is predicted at Higgs field energies well outside energies the SM is usable for. So for calculating Higgs potential at so high energies we need some BSM theory not know yet. In the range where SM can be used, the Higgs field is perfectly stable.

Hasn't Holger Bech Nielsen been promoting this idea for the last two decades?

I came here for a serious discussion on how to "Destroy" the universe. Not "reset" it. Not "create" a new universe. That defeats the whole purpose of "Destroying" the universe. Do you not understand this?

By Bubblebutts (not verified) on 03 Mar 2015 #permalink