If confirmed, the discovery of the elusive Higgs Boson would help resolve a key puzzle about how the universe came into existence some 13.7 billion years ago - and perhaps its ultimate fate. "It may be that the universe we live in is inherently unstable and at some point billions of years from now it's all going to get wiped out. This calculation tells you that many tens of billions of years from now, there'll be a catastrophe," said Joseph Lykken, a theoretical physicist with the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, who is also on the science team at Europe's Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator. "A little bubble of what you might think of as an 'alternative' universe will appear somewhere and then it will expand out and destroy us," Lykken said, adding that the event will unfold at the speed of light.
Lykken spoke to reporters before presenting his research at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston.
Scientists had wrestled with the idea of the universe's long-term stability before the Higgs discovery, but calculations made once its mass began settling in at around 126 billion electron volts showed it to be a critical number for figuring out the fate of the universe, which requires knowing the mass of the Higgs to within one percent, as well as the precise mass of other related subatomic particles.
"You change any of these parameters to the Standard Model (of particle physics) by a tiny bit and you get a different end of the universe," Lyyken said.
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