Recent research from a team of physicists from Harvard University suggests that the end of the universe might take place in the same way it had started. The researchers’ findings also include a possible timeline for this “second Big Bang,” hinting that it could happen in the extremely distant future.
In a study published in the journal Physical Review D, the researchers noted that the universe’s end might come as a result of the destabilization of the Higgs boson particle, the so-called “God particle” responsible for the mass other particles possess. According to Business Insider, this phenomenon could ultimately cause a burst of energy so fantastic in its magnitude that it would “upend the laws of physics and chemistry,” thereby obliterating anything and everything in the universe at the time of the event.
Aside from detailing the circumstances that could possibly lead to the end of the universe, the researchers also predicted when the event might happen — approximately 10 to the 139th power, or 10 quinquadragintillion years from now, at the very most. As simplified by SlashGear, the figure translates to the number 1 followed by 46 sets of 000s. The team also believes there’s at least a 95 percent chance that the event will take place sooner than that, though it’s still a timeline very far removed from the present — at least 10 to the 58th power, or 10 octadecillion years from now, with the number appearing as 1 with 19 sets of 000s.
“We wanted to fix all the previous approximations and get the exact date as pinned down as we could,” said study author Andreas Andreassen of Harvard University, as quoted by Outer Places.
The particle that is at the center of the Harvard team’s end-of-the-universe predictions, the Higgs boson, was first confirmed to exist in March 2013, as researchers from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced the results of an extensive series of experiments done with the Large Hadron Collider. Apart from giving mass to other particles, the Higgs boson has a mass of its own, and once that figure changes, this could result in another Big Bang, as opposed to a process that takes place over several trillions of years, the researchers warned.
The world could end as abruptly as it began, warn experts https://t.co/aIKwyNEq5M— New York Post (@nypost) April 4, 2018
“It turns out we’re right on the edge between a stable universe and an unstable universe,” said Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory physicist Joseph Lykken, as quoted by the New York Post.
“We’re sort of right on the edge where the universe can last for a long time, but eventually, it should go ‘boom.'”
As for the reasons why the Higgs boson could become unstable and result in the end of the universe, Durham University professor Ruth Gregory, who was not involved in the study, predicted that this might be driven by peculiar interactions between particles that, in turn, are caused by space-time curving around a dense object such as a black hole. While the researchers warned that the particle’s “collapse” might have already started, they stressed that it’s impossible to determine whether this is indeed the case, as the Higgs boson is such a mysterious particle that no one knows for sure where exactly it can be found in our universe.