Finding the 'God' particle could destroy the universe, warns Stephen Hawking - The Higgs boson 'God particle' could destroy the universe, Hawking says
- Space and time could suddenly collapse - and 'we would not see it coming'
- If scientists put too much energy in the Higgs boson the universe could end
- Disaster very unlikely as physicists do not have large enough collider
The elusive 'God particle' discovered by scientists in 2012 has the potential to destroy the universe, Professor Stephen Hawking has warned.
At very high energy levels, the Higgs boson could cause space and time suddenly collapse - and 'we wouldn't see it coming', the former Cambridge professor of mathematics says.
The God particle, which gives shape and size to everything that exists, could cause a 'catastrophic vacuum delay' if scientists were to put it under extreme stress.
A disaster like this is very unlikely for the time being as physicists do not have a particle accelerator large enough create such an experiment, but Prof Hawking's comments have excited scientists, the Sunday Times reported.
The theoretical physicist wrote his thoughts on the Higgs boson in the preface to a new book, Starmus, a collection of lectures by scientists and astronomers including Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Queen guitarist Brian May.
Prof Hawking wrote: 'The Higgs potential has the worrisome feature that it might become megastable at energies above 100bn giga-electron-volts (GeV).
'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 professor did add sarcastically, however, that such an event is unlikely in the near future.
He said: 'A particle accelerator that reaches 100bn GeV would be larger than Earth, and is unlikely to be funded in the present economic climate.'
Professor John Ellis, a theoretical physicist at Cern, said: 'One thing should be made clear. The discovery of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) did not cause this problem, and collisions at the LHC could not trigger the instability, because their energies are far too low.'
Particle accelerators make subatomic particles travel at greater and greater speeds as they are pumped with more energy before smashing them together.
Scientists do this to try and spot tiny fragments of particles which fly off, and it is how the Higgs boson was discovered at the Cern LHC in Switzerland in 2012.
In that experiment, physicists noticed unexpected debris from the collisions that fitted with what British scientist Peter Higgs had predicted in the early 1960s.
The Higgs boson particle is thought to be part of the mechanism that gives matter its mass, but scientists do not fully understand it yet. WHAT IS THE GOD PARTICLE?
The Higgs boson was a key missing piece in the jigsaw for physicists in trying to understand how the universe works.
Scientists believe that a fraction of a second after the Big Bang that gave birth to the universe, an invisible energy field, called the Higgs field, formed.
This has been described as a kind of ‘cosmic treacle’ across the universe. As particles passed through it, they picked up mass, giving them size and shape and allowing them to form the atoms that make up you, everything around you and everything in the universe.
This was the theory proposed in 1964 by former grammar school boy Professor Higgs that has now been confirmed.
Without the Higgs field particles would simply whizz around space in the same way as light does.
A boson is a type of sub-atomic particle. Every energy field has a specific particle that governs its interaction with what’s around it.
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