There’s no need to panic, but it seems the universe could actually have a ‘self-destruct button’ that could obliterate Earth in an instant, and without warning.
We said don’t panic.
YouTube science channel Kurzgesagt explains how a false vacuum could be the ultimate cosmic catastrophe, wiping out life as we know it forever: who needs Bond villains when you have nature?
The scary prediction rests on the basic understanding of energy in the universe.
Everything in the universe has a level of energy – those with higher energy levels are unstable and want to get rid of this energy to return to a stable or ‘vacuum’ state, like a ball rolling down a hill and resting at the lowest point.
However, it is possible that the Higgs Field – the quantum field that gives particles their mass – is actually falsely stable or ‘metastable’.
Although it is pretending to be stable, it could actually still be harbouring a lot of energy that it wants to shed.
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Kurzgesagt explains that at any possible moment, a random spark - such as quantum tunnelling - could cause the Higgs Field to leave its false vacuum and release it’s massive amount of potential energy.
This phenomenal release would grow at the speed of light and “whatever it touches would be eliminated from existence.”
And in a fraction of a second, Earth would be gone.
But because we are glass-half-full people, bear in mind this would be the “most efficient and clean way” to destroy absolutely everything you love and care about in the universe.
Glad we cleared that up.