The universe can die in the most spectacular way: what is "vacuum collapse"?

Dmytro IvancheskulLife
If the Universe is in a bubble of true vacuum, everything will come to an end

Scientists studying the universe and its development have many theories about what the end of not just humanity, but everything, might look like. For example, the Universe may continue to expand, while cooling down until it reaches absolute zero (minus 273.15 degrees C), when all atoms simply "die". There is also the possibility that the Big Contraction will occur, when the Universe, which has been unfolding for billions of years after the Big Bang, collapses into itself, returning to a state of singularity - when an object has infinite density and temperature.

But there is also the possibility that a more graceful and absolutely spectacular end to everything will occur, called the vacuum collapse.

To understand this phenomenon, we need to consider the Higgs field, which permeates our Universe. As Cosmos Magazine explains, this field is capable of changing its strength depending on the potential, which in turn determines whether the Universe is in one of two states: a true vacuum or a false vacuum.

A true vacuum is a stable state with the lowest energy, such as sitting still at the bottom of a valley. In contrast, a false vacuum means that you are sitting near a pit or depression at the side of a valley - a small push can easily send you tumbling down. A universe in a false vacuum is called "metastable" because it is not actively collapsing, but it is not completely stable.

There are two problems with living in a metastable universe. Firstly, if you create an event with a sufficiently high energy, you can theoretically push a part of this universe out of the false vacuum and into the true one. As a result, a bubble of true vacuum will be created, which will subsequently expand in all directions at the speed of light. Of course, such a bubble would be deadly.

Secondly, according to quantum mechanics, a particle can "tunnel" through a barrier between one region and another, in particular between different regions of a vacuum. Thus, the Universe, which is in a false vacuum, may partially find itself in a real vacuum due to random quantum fluctuations. This would mean an inevitable catastrophe.

Scientists have begun to discuss the possibility of vacuum collapse, as measurements of the mass of the Higgs boson indicate the metastability of the Universe. But researchers suspect that there is some part of physics that is still unknown to scientists and that will balance everything out.

If the Universe is indeed metastable, then, technically, the transition can occur through quantum processes at any time. However, this is likely to happen not too soon, because the lifetime of a metastable Universe is predicted to be much longer than the current age of the Universe.

But if the transition does happen, it is likely that people and all other living beings will not even have time to understand anything. The walls of a real vacuum bubble will expand simultaneously in all directions at the speed of light, and since they contain a huge amount of energy, everything that the bubble passes through will instantly burn up.

In addition, a change in the state of the vacuum will catastrophically alter the basic structure of matter, the rules of nature, chemistry, and make it impossible for life to exist in the form we know it.

Subsequently, it is likely that in the realities of the new vacuum, new life may arise, or at least some forms of life that have never been known to mankind.

However, in 1980, theoretical physicists Sidney Coleman and Frank De Lucchia suggested that any bubble of a true vacuum would immediately undergo a complete gravitational collapse. That is, there would be nothing left at all.

Earlier, OBOZREVATEL also talked about what will happen when the Earth's rotation accelerates.

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