The Higgs Boson May Already Be Devouring the Universe, as Stephen Hawking Predicted
Altogether, CERN spent about $13.25 billion on finding the elusive particle known as the Higgs-Boson, which is hypothesized to be reason that matter has mass.
There were a lot of worries that the search for the Higgs-Boson would create a black hole that would engulf the world, but like most doomsday prophecies it didn't turn out to be true—scientists managed to safely find the Higgs-Boson and study it (and win a bet with Stephen Hawking to boot).
Everything seemed to have a happy ending until researchers realized that the Higgs-Boson has the potential to become unstable and wipe out the universe in a bubble-shaped vacuum that travels at the speed of light. In fact, that universe-destroying void bubble may already be on its way.
But let's back up for a second here.
The Higgs-Boson particle is an extremely small particle, and like other particles, it can become unstable..or rather, its field can become unstable. It would take an incredible amount of energy to pull this off, but the result would be devastating due to how to Higgs-Boson interacts with other matter: the Higgs field.
The Higgs field has (according to our best estimates) been around since the beginning of the universe and is one of the major forces keeping it stable. If a portion of the Higgs field experienced a phenomenon called "quantum tunneling," which is most likely to occur out in the empty space between galaxies, then it could set off a chain reaction that has the potential to destroy the universe.
According to Stephen Hawking:
"The Higgs potential has the worrisome feature that it might become metastable at energies above 100 [billion] gigaelectronvolts (GeV)…This could mean that the universe could undergo catastrophic vacuum decay, with a bubble of the true vacuum expanding at the speed of light. This could happen at any time and we wouldn't see it coming."
What makes this scenario especially terrifying is that the Higgs Boson is teetering right on the edge of stability.
According to physicist Joseph Lykken, "It turns out we're right on the edge between a stable universe and an unstable universe. We're sort of right on the edge where the universe can last for a long time, but eventually, it should go 'boom.' "
That 'boom' may already have begun, however.
Fortunately, new research from Harvard University has run the numbers.
We now have an estimate of how long we have before the Higgs Boson conceivably consumes the universe itself: between 10^58 and 10^139 years. Respectively, that's 10 with 58 zeroes behind it, and 10 with 139 zeroes. So we've got a long time before that Higgs Boson bubble comes for us.