In the preface to a new book, Starmus, acclaimed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking writes that the so-called “God particle” could become unstable and cause a “catastrophic vacuum decay” that would lead to the collapse of time and space, The Sunday Times reports.
“The Higgs potential has the worrisome feature that it might become metastable at energies above 100bn gigaelectronvolts,” Hawking writes. “This could mean that the universe could undergo catastrophic vacuum decay, with a bubble of the true vacuum expanding at the speed of light.”
“This could happen at any time and we wouldn’t see it coming.”
The successful discovery of the Higgs particle has led to calls from within the scientific community to create larger, more powerful supercolliders than the Large Hadron Collider at Cern, where scientists discovered the Higgs boson.
Many in the scientific community are upset with Hawking — not because he is incorrect, but because such statements from a scientist of his eminence could dissuade the public from funding experiments like those at Cern in the future.
In his preface, Hawking stresses that the possibility of the Higgs boson behaving in such a way is highly unlikely — and that creating the conditions in which the particle would is impossible given the current state of technological development.
“A particle accelerator that reaches 100bn GeV would be larger than Earth, and is unlikely to be funded in the present economic climate,” Hawking writes.
[“Stephen Hawking” via NASA HQ photo on Flickr, Creative Commons license]