Posted on Sunday, October 26th, 2014 by Lavanya Bathwal

Judging by the picture, Stephen Hawking doesn't seem quite happy. What might be the reason? Is it because he lost 100$ to Gordon Kane over a bet that physicists won't discover the Higgs boson-the GOD PARTICLE (a popular term used much to the dismay of scientists)?
However, this photo was certainly not taken in 2012 when Higgs boson was discovered. In fact, this is a recent one. The one where he is seen working at his desk contemplating the impact of the God particle (no offence to the physicists). As per the recent news, Hawking commented that the Higgs Boson“has the worrisome feature that it might become metastable” at very high energies and a "black hole" could be created on Earth. Hawking went on: “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.”

Well, there’s no need to start shifting in your seat and wiping the beads of perspiration from your forehead. Hawking does admit, however, that the likelihood of a disaster involving the Higgs is infinitesimal since physicists do not have a particle accelerator large enough to create such an experiment yet. “A particle accelerator that reaches 100bn GeV would be larger than Earth, and is unlikely to be funded in the present economic climate,” Hawking wrote. Yes, I can imagine your sigh of relief at this moment- did give me jitters when I went through it myself!

Now, let us try to comprehend the science involved in Hawking’s prediction of destruction. So, the Higgs boson is a tiny particle the existence of which was since long speculated. The Higgs boson is an extremely important part of the Standard Model because it signals the existence of the Higgs field, an invisible energy field present throughout the universe that imbues other particles with mass.

The energy of a Higgs boson is about 126 billion electron volts, or about the 126 times the mass of a proton. Interestingly, this happens to be the precise amount of mass needed to keep the universe on the brink of instability. However, the physicists hypothesize that this delicate state of balance will eventually collapse and the universe will become unstable. Such a terrifying conclusion involves the Higgs field.

Right now the Higgs field is in a minimum potential energy state — like a valley, in a field of hills and valleys. The huge amount of energy required to change into another state is like chugging up a hill. If the Higgs field makes it over that energy hill, some physicists think the destruction of the universe is waiting on the other side - hopefully these physicists will be proved wrong by God (pun intended)!

An unlucky quantum fluctuation, or a change in energy, could trigger a process called "quantum tunneling". Instead of having to climb the energy hill, quantum tunneling would make it possible for the Higgs field to "tunnel" through the hill into the next, even lower-energy valley. This quantum fluctuation will happen somewhere out in the empty vacuum of space between galaxies, and will create a "bubble". Of course, to the uninitiated, this may sounds extremely bizarre-no worries, though, since this topic is pretty complicated even for some of the eminent physicists!

The Higgs field inside that bubble will be stronger and will have a lower energy level than its surroundings. Even if the Higgs field inside the bubble were slightly stronger than it is now, it could shrink atoms, disintegrate atomic nuclei, so that hydrogen would be the only element surviving in the universe.

Researchers predict this bubble would contain an ultra-strong Higgs field that would expand at the speed of light through space-time. The expansion would be unstoppable and would wipe out everything in the existing universe.

Don't get agitated again. Look at the other side of the coin.

The other idea is of "super symmetry". In the Standard Model, every particle has a partner, or its own anti-particle. Super symmetry is a theory that suggests every particle also has a super symmetric partner particle. The existence of these other particles would help stabilize the universe.

God is often perceived to be two faced - a creator on one hand and a destroyer on the other- so is, perhaps, the god particle. While it has initiated new research opportunities for the scientific community, it also threatens to destroy our habitation!

All we can do now, is to wait and watch, while the God (particle) gradually presents itself to us!

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