Physicists have long predicted that what came into being billions of years ago will inevitably be snuffed out. One day, the universe will collapse, folding in on itself like the sand in an hourglass, squeezing all material – including our little blue planet – into a tiny, hard and extremely hot ball of dense matter.
The question that remains is, when? Today? Tomorrow? A billion years from now? When scientists from the University of Southern Denmark looked to answer that question, they came to a startling conclusion: The collapse may have already begun somewhere in the universe and, like Pac-Man gobbling up all those little white dots, is “eating its way” deeper and deeper into the universe.
According to the Danish scientists new study, at some point a radical shift in the forces of the universe will take place. This tremendous transition will occur when a bubble appears in the Higgs field, the invisible energy field present throughout the universe, giving the Higgs particle a different value than the rest of space. If this bubble were big enough, it would expand at the speed of light, swallowing everything it touched and sending the universe into a tailspin.
The theory itself isn’t new, but scientists from the university say they’ve now proven it with mathematical models.
"Many theories and calculations predict such a phase transition - but there have been some uncertainties in the previous calculations,” Jens Frederik Colding Krog, Ph.D. student at the Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics Phenomenology at the university and co-author of the study, said in a statement. “Now we have performed more precise calculations, and we see two things: Yes, the universe will probably collapse, and a collapse is even more likely than the old calculations predicted.”
When the dramatic shift in forces takes place, everything, including humans, will become millions of billions of times heavier than they are now, causing everything to be pulled together into a super mass.
"The phase transition will start somewhere in the universe and spread from there,” Krog said. “Maybe the collapse has already started somewhere in the universe and right now it is eating its way into the rest of the universe. Maybe a collapse is starting right now, right here. Or maybe it will start far away from here in a billion years. We do not know.”
This isn’t the first time scientists have accused the Higgs-particle of plotting our demise. Io9 reported in February that physicists from the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois proposed a similar doomsday scenario. They predicted that something called vacuum instability could occur in the universe, in which an alternate universe is created within our own.