There are many things in the universe that threaten the existence of our species. But none, is more scary than the Vacuum Decay. Why? because it can wipe us out at any instant and we can neither predict it nor prepare for it.
Everything in the known universe is made up of elementary particles – quarks, electrons, etc. Each particle has their respective field and particles pop into existence when there are energy fluctuations in these fields. These fields permeate the whole universe and exist in a stable state (lowest energy state). However, there is one exception. The Higgs Field- the particle discovered in 2012 at the LHC, which is responsible for the creation of mass in the universe.
The Problem with Higgs
Fluctuations in the Higgs Field result in Higgs particles popping into existence. However, physicists calculate that the Higgs field is not entirely stable, but, Metastable. Meaning it appears to be in a stable state but that is not its true stable state its energy can drop to even lower levels. It is in a false vacuum state.
The Higgs can drop to its true vacuum/stable state at any moment, and that could be the end of all things! Or is it?
How can the Higgs Field Drop to its True Vacuum State?
This can happen if an extremely high energy event, unlike anything the universe has ever seen, occurs at a point.
What happens then?
After the high energy event, an energy drop occurs in the Higgs field, and a bubble-like structure containing the true vacuum state will form at the point of energy drop and expand outwards in all directions at the speed of light. In this process, the bubble converts the vacuum of the surrounding regions into the true vacuum state. All the laws of physics inside this bubble will be different and it will spread until it engulfs the whole universe. It might also be the case that we are living inside one of these bubbles!
Should we be worried?
It is possible that one or maybe more of these events are happening right now. But, why hasn’t it destroyed the universe yet? This is because the speed of light is too slow on the cosmic scale. If one of these apocalyptic bubbles has already formed in the far reaches of the universe, it might never get to us. In time, the expansion rate of the universe will overwhelm the expansion speed of one of these bubbles.
Even though the event is possible, it is highly unlikely. Therefore, we can sleep tight and not worry about some apocalyptic bubble destroying as all.