Skip to comments.Doomsday? Universe's Fate Depends on True Mass of Tiny Particle
Posted on 09/13/2013 10:43:45 PM PDT by LibWhacker
The universe may end in another 10 billion years or sooner if the heaviest of all the known elementary particles, the top quark, is even heavier than previously thought, researchers say.
If the top quark is not heavier than experiments currently suggest, then an even stranger fate may await the cosmos: disembodied brains and virtually anything else could one day randomly materialize into existence.
The protons and neutrons that make up the nuclei of atoms are made of elementary particles known as quarks. Protons and neutrons are made up of the lightest and most stable flavors of quark: the up quark and down quark. The heaviest and most unstable flavor of quark is the top quark, which current experiments suggest is about 184 times heavier than the proton.
Now, theoretical physicists find that if the top quark is heavier than currently thought, the energy suffusing the vacuum of empty space may one day destabilize.
"If the vacuum destabilizes, we would all die," said researcher Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicistat the California Institute of Technology.
First, microscopic bubbles would appear and affect the Higgs field, which pervades space and is thought to be responsible for the masses of particles such as electrons and quarks. Those tiny bubbles in space, however, would cause the Higgs field to have lower energy than its current value.
"These bubbles appear only rarely, but when they do, they expand at close to the speed of light," Carroll told LiveScience.
If such a bubble were to hit Earth, the masses of all the particles that depend on the Higgs field would suddenly change.
"Physics and chemistry as we know them would become very different, and certainly no living creature would survive," Carroll said. [The Top 10 Ways to Destroy Earth]
These bubbles may appear every 20 billion years or so. In comparison, the universe is about 13.8 billion years old, meaning the universe may have 10 billion years or so left to live. These bubbles could possibly materialize even faster tomorrow or in the next few years although the chances are quite slim, Carroll and his colleague Kimberly Boddy at the California Institute of Technology said.
If the universe is not doomed by the top quark, it could face an even more bizarre fate one dominated by so-called Boltzmann Brains.
In principle, a room full of monkeys randomly hitting keys on typewriters could eventually come up with the complete works of Shakespeare. Indeed, any random event, no matter how unlikely, could happen, given enough time.
One extraordinarily unlikely possibility is that anyone or everyone might have randomly come into existence with a complete set of memories no more than a moment ago from a cluster of atoms an idea suggested by Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann. One might even propose all intelligent minds in the universe are disembodied brains with complete sets of memories that randomly fluctuated out of chaos rather than evolving conventionally from a relatively orderly past. If everyone's minds are suspect, one might never be able to tell whether one's model of the universe is viable or not.
The universe is not only expanding, but its growth is apparently accelerating, perhaps driven by energy suffusing the vacuum of empty space. In principle, such a version of the cosmos may last forever, remaining warm enough to drive random fluctuations creating Boltzmann Brains.
However, if the top quark is massive enough to potentially doom all life, then the energy of the vacuum would be low enough to avoid the unsettling concept of Boltzmann Brains.
"We're not arguing that Boltzmann Brains exist we're trying to avoid them," Carroll said.
In order "to bring on rapid cosmic doomsday and avoid the Boltzmann Brain menace," the top quark's mass needs to be about 178 billion electron volts, corresponding to 188 times the mass of the proton, Carroll said. This is about 3 percent heavier than the top quark's current measured mass of 173 billion electron volts, "but there are uncertainties on that measurement, and the top quark could easily be a few billion electron volts heavier than we think," he added.
As the world's largest and most powerful particle accelerator the Large Hadron Collider gathers more data, researchers will get a better idea of the top quark's mass and, potentially, the universe's destiny.
"It's interesting and fun to connect something measurable in experiments to speculations about the future of the universe," Carroll said.
We are going to die!
Guess I’d better not make that reservation for dinner at the Red Lobster.
This already happened. It resulted in unbrained bodies, like muslims and democrats.
This is what atheists rely on and it is a fallacy as far as time as we know it exists. There are many scenarios which are required for our current universe which have smaller odds than being able to pick out a particular atom from the universe.
I agree with that......really....
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authoritiesall things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
So, I'm not worried.
Exactly — which strongly indicates that there was some sort of “driver” — some force that caused those things to fall into those narrow windows. Planck’s Constant is one such thing. The slightest deviation and life as we know it could not exist.
Theoretically, yes, but the probability of some events occurring in certain ways at certain points in time, while technically not zero, is so minimal that it might as well be zero.
Consequently, the likelihood of Boltzmann brains, and other statistical horrors he envisioned are so low as to be zero for ALL practical purposes.
People like to point out the monkey typing randomly for an infinite amount of time producing all the works of Shakespeare as an example of just what bizarre consequences randomly occurring events can produce without exploring the practical consequences of this thought experiment, but doing so puts you in touch with how large infinity is.
For example, under some reasonable assumptions about how fast he types, the monkey will produce many English phrases, including all the works of Shakespeare, in fact every book ever written, including every version of the Bible after a very long time. Before he types out the complete works of Shakespeare in order, he will have repeated many lines from Shakespeare over and over, many times.
How long does it take him to type just the first recognizable sentence of twelve words or longer from Shakespeare? I believe the estimate we came up with in my first graduate class in statistical mechanics was 10^48 years. Compare this to ~10^13 years for the age of the universe. That's right. Our universe, and the next universe after ours, and so on and so on, could consecutively be born and die more than Avagadro's number of times before he types just ONE moderately long sentence.
In mathematical terms, 10^48 is closer to zero than it is to infinity. "A LOT" closer.
You won't be seeing Boltzmann brains popping up anytime soon...
I’m all for science and exploration, but stories like this remind me of Romans 1:22: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”
Really? And they thought I was crazy.
It would be a different Universe, with different laws of physics and different life. That life would look around and conclude that their set of constants is the only one that supports life as they know it.
Read the last sentence of the article. The scientist is saying that it's speculation and fun. And it's being played up by a journalist to get hits on a web page. The real science here is determining the mass of the top quark, which most people would find very dull, otherwise.
So because we don’t know, the universe is going to end.
Anybody have a way to get off this planet? “Educated scientists” often strike me as the most stupid people alive today.
Interesting that this is a physical mechanism for the universe as we know it to just completely disappear at any time, perhaps in favor of what caused it and is not contained within it.
All throughout my life, the blanks in science and society separating us from the events of the Book of Revelation have been filling in unremittingly. Much of what was presumed to require miracles at one time could have been designed in from the beginning or has appeared with advances in technology or changes in the world.
What’s a Boltzmann brain?
I laugh when some idiot prognosticates 10 billion years into the future or past..
I wonder if they can balance their checkbook..
Science fiction MUST be logical... else whats the point..
Reality need not be logical at all.. reality can do whatever it damn well pleases..
First of all, none of your opinions matter because you are just figments of my Boltzmann brain.
Secondly, even Boltzmann brains have to strain to come up with the concept of bubbles in the vacuum of space.
Thirdly, physicists could not get financing for their very expensive equipment if they didn’t get articles like this published to capture the public’s imagination. Your equipment must be quick to study the quirks of quarks.
I have 10 bucks on the “over.”
But I want to hold the money.
What a coincidence, me and a buddy were arguing this very subject the other evening during happy hour.....
OMG, they could look into the future and see Kerry & McCain...........
“One might even propose all intelligent minds in the universe are disembodied brains with complete sets of memories that randomly fluctuated out of chaos rather than evolving conventionally from a relatively orderly past. If everyone’s minds are suspect, one might never be able to tell whether one’s model of the universe is viable or not.”
This is where you end up when you have to rely on your own wisdom.
Lord, I think I have seen enough.
“...it is a fallacy...”
Sorry Luke, but it is the truth. It is one of the principles of probability; in fact, mathematically it is even more strongly stated. Any random event, no matter how unlikely, if has a probability of happening, WILL happen given enough time.
“If everyone’s mind is suspect, one might never be able to tell whether one’s model of the Universe is viable or not.”
Didn’t the philosopher David Hume (or Home?) say pretty much the same thing back in the 17th or 18th Century?
Substitute a bunch of supercomputers constructed of ASIC chips for the monkeys and you have the NSA trying to brute force a long encryption key.
Pretty much describes FR
What complete rubbish! The universe does not depend on humans’ ways of measuring it! The universe is what it is no matter what people think of it and whether it conforms to people’s expectations about it or not.
I don’t expect much intelligence from a pop science mag, but this is really stupid. They will risk their reputation just to get ‘doomsday’ in the headline.
“randomly materialize into existence. “
If a scientist can’t see the absurdity of that statement, then he or she is not fit to be a scientist.
CRAP! I'm going to have to reschedule a lot of appointments in Outlook!
“To be or not to be, that is the banana.”
Dang. Start over.
I don't claim to be expert in the mathematics of probability, but this doesn't sound right to me.
Let us assume an event has a probability of happening once in 1M years. Which means of course a one in 1M chance for any given year. Give it a million total years, and the probability it will happen is 1:1.
In one billion years the probability of it NOT happening is 1 in 1000. In a trillion years 1 in 1M.
But the chance of anything happening, no matter how likely or unlikely, never reaches absolute, no matter how much time is involved. Really, really likely or unlikely does not equal mathematical certainty.
I especially liked the article's blithe assumption, if I was reading it right, that there is a 1 in 10M chance the universe will end this year, and that this means it will most likely come to an end in 10M years from now. That is most definitely not how probability works.
My wife and I are meeting her son and his wife at Mikey's on the Bayou this afternoon (seafood place in Ocean Springs, MS) - might need to make it earlier...
Assuming you are actually referring to a random event which happens, on average, once every million years, that's not right.
If it happens, on average, once every million years, the probability of it happening in any given year is 0.000001.
The probability of it not happening in any given year is then "1 - 0.000001", or 0.999999.
The probability of it not happening in each of two years is then 0.999999 * 0.999999, or 0.999998000001.
The odds of it not happening in a million years is then 0.999999 to the millionth power, or roughly 0.37; in any given million-year interval there's a 37% chance of it not happening at all.
In fact, extending to a 10-million year interval, there's a roughly 0.00004 chance of it not happening in that entire period.
"Dang. Start Over...
... Oh crap. It's not random anymore."
Another way to think about that might be:
Since the slightest deviation would preclude life as we know it, perhaps there is another universe in which the constant of proportionality relating the energy of a photon to the frequency of that photon (also known as ɛɜɝɞɟɠɣɥɧɮɳɷʂʄʱ in that hypothetical universe). is sufficiently different that we could not live there.
However, intelligent life does exist there and has advanced to the point they have deduced the principles of Quantum Mechanics, and have determined the value of ɛɜɝɞɟɠɣɥɧɮɳɷʂʄʱ with utmost precision. Perhaps they are speculating on the remarkable tides of fate that have placed ɛɜɝɞɟɠɣɥɧɮɳɷʂʄʱ in the remarkably narrow range that allows life as they know it to exist.
Perhaps no "narrow range" exists and life was designed to suit the existing conditions? Perhaps intelligent design applies to more than one universe?
Have you ever wondered why our eyes are most sensitive to "visible light" which is the same portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that carries the lion's share of the Sun's energy output. Amazing coincidence, don't you think?
Hopefully they won’t run out of skrimps... all those end of the universe eaters.
Watch your language, mister.