'God Particle' May Spell Doom For Universe - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

'God Particle' May Spell Doom For Universe

Posted: Updated:

YAHOO.COM - A subatomic particle discovered last year that may be the long-sought Higgs boson might doom our universe to an unfortunate end, researchers say.

The mass of the particle, which was uncovered at the world's largest particle accelerator — the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva — is a key ingredient in a calculation that portends the future of space and time.

"This calculation tells you that many tens of billions of years from now there'll be a catastrophe," Joseph Lykken, a theoretical physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., said Monday (Feb. 18) here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"It may be 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," added Lykken, a collaborator on one of the LHC's experiments. [Gallery: Search for the Higgs Boson]

The Higgs boson particle is a manifestation of an energy field pervading the universe called the Higgs field, which is thought to explain why particles have mass. After searching for decades for proof that this field and particle existed, physicists at the LHC announced in July 2012 that they'd discovered a new particle whose properties strongly suggest it is the Higgs boson.

To confirm the particle's identity for sure, more data are needed. But many scientists say they're betting it's the Higgs.

"This discovery to me was personally astounding," said I. Joseph Kroll, a University of Pennsylvania physicist who also works at the LHC. "To me, the Higgs was sort of, it might be there, it might not. The fact that it's there is really a tremendous accomplishment."

And finding the Higgs, if it's truly been found, not only confirms the theory about how particles get mass, but it allows scientists to make new calculations that weren't possible before the particle's properties were known.

For example, the mass of the new particle is about 126 billion electron volts, or about 126 times the mass of the proton. If that particle really is the Higgs, its mass turns out to be just about what's needed to make the universe fundamentally unstable, in a way that would cause it to end catastrophically in the far future.

That's because the Higgs field is thought to be everywhere, so it affects the vacuum of empty space-time in the universe.

"The mass of the Higgs is related to how stable the vacuum is," explained Christopher Hill, a theoretical physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. "It's right along the critical line. That could either be a cosmic coincidence, or it could be that there's some physics that's causing that. That's something new, which we didn't know before."

Strikingly, if the Higgs mass were just a few percent different, the universe wouldn't be doomed, the scientists said.

But even if the universe is in for an unfortunate end, there is at least one reason for consolation.

"You won't actually see it, because it will come at you at the speed of light," Lykken said. "So in that sense don't worry."

HD DOPPLER 6i
/
  • National NewsMore>>

  • Mad Minute stories from Monday, October 16th

    Mad Minute stories from Monday, October 16th

    Tuesday, October 17 2017 2:37 AM EDT2017-10-17 06:37:11 GMT

    Here are the extended versions of the KHQ Local News 11 at 11 Mad Minute stories from Monday, October 16th.

    More >>

    Here are the extended versions of the KHQ Local News 11 at 11 Mad Minute stories from Monday, October 16th.

    More >>
  • Oil rig explosion send 6 to hospital in Louisiana

    Oil rig explosion send 6 to hospital in Louisiana

    Sunday, October 15 2017 11:16 PM EDT2017-10-16 03:16:48 GMT
    Roger FernandezRoger Fernandez

    LAKE PONTCHARTRAIN, LA - NBC Nightly News reports that an oil rig has exploded in Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana.  6 people have been taken to the hospital. No word on their condition.  The U.S. Coast Guard and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation will conduct water quality testing.  BREAKING: Oil rig has exploded and is burning in Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans; injuries reported. https://t.co/1vx9hcKEpv - @wdsu 

    More >>

    LAKE PONTCHARTRAIN, LA - NBC Nightly News reports that an oil rig has exploded in Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana.  6 people have been taken to the hospital. No word on their condition.  The U.S. Coast Guard and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation will conduct water quality testing.  BREAKING: Oil rig has exploded and is burning in Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans; injuries reported. https://t.co/1vx9hcKEpv - @wdsu 

    More >>
  • Wildfire claims home of 'Peanuts' creator Charles Schulz

    Wildfire claims home of 'Peanuts' creator Charles Schulz

    Saturday, October 14 2017 1:22 AM EDT2017-10-14 05:22:43 GMT
    APAP

    SONOMA, Calif. - The home of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz burned to the ground in the deadly California wildfires but his widow escaped, her stepson confirmed to USA Today Thursday. 78-year-old Jean Schulz evacuated before flames engulfed her hillside home Monday and is staying with a daughter, Monte Schulz. The Schulzes built the split-level home in the 1970's and the cartoonist lived there until his he passed away in 2000.  

    More >>

    SONOMA, Calif. - The home of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz burned to the ground in the deadly California wildfires but his widow escaped, her stepson confirmed to USA Today Thursday. 78-year-old Jean Schulz evacuated before flames engulfed her hillside home Monday and is staying with a daughter, Monte Schulz. The Schulzes built the split-level home in the 1970's and the cartoonist lived there until his he passed away in 2000.  

    More >>