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We might be destroying the universe just by looking at it.


Stashed in: The Multiverse, space, Dark Matter

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Esther Inglis-Arkell explains:

More than any other, one old talking point rung true. Football is a war of attrition, and by the time these two teams had reached the sport’s biggest stage, the Seahawks had won that war. The depth of their relatively healthy roster came through on Sunday, as they exploited overmatched Denver backups stretched into starting roles, while late-round draftees and backups came up with key contributions on both sides of the ball. When Seattle’s dominant pass defense neutralized Manning, the Broncos simply didn’t have a team capable of stepping up and rising to the occasion. Instead, when its star was shook, Denver got stomped.

Our universe's eventual demise, in this case, springs from the fact that it wasn't properly created. The big question has always been, how does something come from nothing? If, in the beginning, there was nothing but a vacuum, devoid of energy or matter, where did the universe come from? As it turns out, not all vacuums are alike - some of them are what's called "false vacuums." They are "bubbles" of space that look like vacuums, but aren't actually at their bottom energy state. They can collapse at nearly any time, and go into their ground energy state. The collapse of such a false vacuum releases energy. At first, many physicists thought this is how our universe began. A false vacuum collapsed down to a true one, and the matter and energy of our universe was the result of its collapse.

It's also possible that the collapsing false vacuum didn't create a true vacuum. It simply created, along with all that matter and energy, another false vacuum. The universe we live in now might simply be a long-lived bubble of false vacuum that's not really at its lowest energy state. If you have trouble believing that the vacuum of space that astronomers observe isn't at its lowest energy state - ask yourself what dark energy is if not a higher-than-expected energy state for the universe. We might be in a fragile, and unstable, bubble of universe that could collapse at any time.

It's unpleasant to think the universe might collapse out of existence at any moment. Especially since, as the collapse won't exceed the speed of light, we'll probably see it coming for us, knowing we're unable to escape it. Fortunately, we have (theoretical) options. Dark energy drives the expansion of the universe. Although bubbles decay, they decay along different lines according to the energy state they're in when they start collapsing. If they're in a high energy state, the rate of decay is also high. If they're in a low energy state, the rate of decay is slow. Put the fast rate of decay in a race against the expansion of the universe, and we are all winked out of existence. Put the slow rate of decay in that same race, and we all have the chance to live productive lives.

[Via The Late Time Behavior of False Vacuum DecayArs TechnicaThe Telegraph.]

My brain is full. Can I please be excused now?

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