Scientists say they know how the universe will end. It won’t be a cosmic collapse but rather a giant cosmic bubble that devours everything in its path.
According to a recent paper, published on March 12 in the journal Physical Review D, the final moment for the universe will be triggered by a bizarre consequence of subatomic physics called an instanton. This instanton will create a tiny bubble that will expand at the speed of light, swallowing everything in its path. It’s only a matter of time.
“At some point you will create one of these bubbles,” study lead author Anders Andreassen, a physicist at Harvard University, told Live Science. “It will be very unpleasant.” By “unpleasant,” he means the end to all life — and, indeed, chemistry — as we know it.
Very little is known about instantons, which are the solutions to equations governing the motion of tiny subatomic particles, but Andreassen loosely compared them to the phenomenon of quantum tunneling, whereby a particle seemingly defies physics to pass through an otherwise impenetrable barrier. But instead of crossing a barrier, the instanton forms a bubble within the Higgs field, the field that gives everything mass and gives rise to the Higgs boson.