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Universe doomed: LHC scientists say

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Simulation of the detection of a Higgs boson

A leading scientist says the universe we live in has a limited life span and will most likely be “wiped out” billions of years from now.

Joseph Lykken, a theoretical physicist with the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, made the remarks in Boston on Monday before he presented his research at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The hypothesis was formulated as scientists were working on the details of last year’s discovery of the Higgs boson particle, which is believed to be the subatomic particle that gives matter its mass.

“If you use all the physics that we know now and you do what you think is a straightforward calculation, it is bad news… 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,” Lykken stated.

Studies on the Higgs’ related particles are underway and, if confirmed, the discovery can help solve the puzzle about the origin of the universe and how it will end.

Proton-proton collisions at the LHC showing events consistent with the Higgs boson

“This calculation tells you that many tens of billions of years from now, there’ll be a catastrophe,” said Lykken, who is also on the science team at Europe’s Large Hadron Collider (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.”

Knowing the mass of the Higgs to within one percent, and measuring the precise mass of other related subatomic particles are necessary for the calculation.

“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 noted.

However, the Earth will cease to exist long before any Higgs boson particles set off a universe-wide apocalypse, as the Sun is expected to expand into a red giant star and engulf the planet in around 5.4 billion years.


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