Does The Universe Have A Self Destruct Button That Could Destroy All Life?
A theory pondered over often by scientists is whether the annihilation of the universe would be as easy as pushing a button. Furthermore, the process of cosmic self-destruction would wipe out everything, including life, so efficiently that the known form of the universe may never exist again. The theory has recently been explained further in a video, which gives more insight on how self-destruction comes down to energy levels and stability.
According to science explainer Kurzgesagt, there is more energy in a system when the level of energy is higher. However, objects throughout the universe are becoming more stable because they are trying to shed energy to attain their ground state. A report explains the theory further, "By tapping into the potential for things to move from high energy states to these stable low states, we can combine chemicals to make explosives or use compressed springs to drive objects forward with force - releasing chemical or potential energy to produced heat, light and movement."
As per to the explanation given in the video, the ground state theory is true in the bizarre arena of quantum mechanics that oversees how the universe works on the subatomic scale. Furthermore, particles are trying to reach their vacuum state which is their lowest possible energy state, just like everything else in the cosmos.
However, when it comes to the quantum field that gives mass to particles throughout the universe, known as the Higgs field, the energy state could actually be in state of dip even though it appears to be at its lowest - which means that it is not as stable as it is thought to be. This in turn means that the Higgs field can actually attain a lower energy state, which leaves a massive amount of potential energy that is on the brink of being unleashed. Scientists are unsure about the mechanisms that could propel such a vacuum decay, however if the Higgs field drops the potential energy then it would set off a chain reaction, with no moving backward.
The creation of a more stable Higgs field would release energy that would make the space surrounding it even more energetic, eventually crashing towards the base energy state, ultimately leading to instant annihilation of the universe - something that humans would never see coming. Furthermore, the occurrence would leave behind a state in which everything we know about the universe or its physics will also be erased, meaning that chemical reactions and life won't exist.
"If you feel slightly worried now, don't be," the video explains to cheer things up. "At this point false vacuum is speculation based on our current understanding of particle physics, which might be wrong."