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  • What if our universe

  • comes with a self-destruct button

  • to eliminate itself

  • so cleanly and efficiently,

  • that every single physical thing

  • would just stop existing

  • and life would be impossible

  • forever.

  • The ultimate ecological catastrophe -

  • vacuum decay.

  • (Theme music)

  • To explain how our universe

  • could destroy itself,

  • we need to understand two principles:

  • One - energy levels.

  • A core idea in physics is that

  • everything has an energy level.

  • The higher the level, the more energy is in the system

  • Wood, for example, has a high level.

  • It can be burnt, a process that

  • releases the chemical energy stored in its molecular bonds

  • and turns it into heat.

  • The ash leftover is at a

  • lower energy level than the wood before.

  • Two - stability.

  • Everything in our universe tries to move

  • towards its ground state, in which it's completely stable

  • and has as little energy as possible.

  • For example, a ball on a hill is unstable

  • and has a lot of potential energy.

  • When disturbed, it will roll down into the valey

  • and lose its potential energy in the process

  • The ball is now in its ground state and stable.

  • It will remain like that.

  • Everything in our universe

  • follows these two principles.

  • If something has a lot of energy,

  • it's unstable and wants to get rid of it

  • to become stable

  • and reach its ground state.

  • This is true for every system

  • even in the weird world of

  • quantum mechanics.

  • If our current understanding of physics is correct, then the universe

  • gets its properties from quantum fields.

  • We explained them in detail

  • in another video.

  • For this video, imagine them

  • as the rules of the universe.

  • They tell particles how to

  • behave and interact

  • Like everything in the universe,

  • they want to be in the lowest energy level possible,

  • which is called a vacuum state.

  • This has nothing to do with

  • vacuum in space.

  • It's just called this way

  • because scientists are bad at naming things

  • We then call the fields reached their

  • vacuum state, except maybe one.

  • It's possible that the Higgs Field

  • is not stable, but metastable, which is

  • a fancy way of saying that it

  • pretends to be stable but really is not.

  • It would be a false vacuum.

  • The Higgs Field is responsible for

  • giving particles their mass,

  • which rules how almost everything

  • in the universe interacts.

  • What would happen if the Higgs Field isn't a false vacuum?

  • Think of our ball in the valley:

  • the ball is the Higgs Field.

  • The valley might not be the lowest energy state for the Higgs Field.

  • There might an even deeper valley that it wants to get to.

  • This would mean that the Higgs Field has a lot of potential energy,

  • waiting to be released.

  • The Higgs Field could be like a piece of wood

  • but drenched in gasoline,

  • waiting to set the universe on fire.

  • A random spark like quantum tunneling

  • could release the potential energy

  • of the Higgs Fields.

  • This could happen at any time

  • and without warning.

  • If that any point in space,

  • this so-called vacuum decay starts,

  • there is no turning back.

  • As the Higgs Field crashes into

  • the lower energy state,

  • it releases a massive amount of

  • potential energy.

  • This energy pushes the space around it

  • over the barrier, which releases

  • more potential energy.

  • A sphere of the new stable Higgs Field,

  • or true vacuum, grows at the

  • speed of light in all directions.

  • Imagine it like setting a sea of gasoline,

  • the size of the universe, on fire.

  • This sphere is surrounded by

  • a shell of energy that devours everything

  • it comes into contact with.

  • Whatever it touches

  • is eliminated for existence.

  • The bubble will continue to grow forever.

  • deleting the universe on its way.

  • There is no way to be warned,

  • since it's so fast.

  • But there's nothing we can do anyway.

  • Our destruction would be instant,

  • in a fraction of second,

  • Earth would be gone.

  • But it actually gets worse.

  • If the energy level

  • of the Higgs Field changes,

  • it changes all of physics.

  • In the true vacuum of the sphere,

  • the standard model will be overthrown,

  • superseded by different physics

  • that we don't know -

  • how fundamental particles behave,

  • how atoms hold together,

  • how chemicals react.

  • Vacuum decay won't just destroy life,

  • it will destroy chemistry itself,

  • making life as we know it impossible.

  • We simply have no idea

  • what it would be like inside.

  • It might be a shadow of what it is now,

  • or not.

  • We don't know.

  • If vacuum decay happens,

  • the outlook is indeed grim.

  • If you feel slightly worried now,

  • don't be.

  • At this point, false vacuum is speculation

  • based on our current understanding of

  • particle physics, which might be wrong.

  • It's kind of like using a ruler

  • to measure a continent.

  • (playful music)

  • Sure, you can do it, but you might be off

  • by quite a bit at the end.

  • Right now, no-one can say a vacuum decay

  • is a thing that's real

  • or just a scary idea.

  • But even if one or multiple spheres

  • of death have already started expanding,

  • the universe is so big

  • that they might not reach us

  • for billions of years.

  • If they're far enough away,

  • they might not ever be able to reach us

  • because of the expansion of the universe.

  • The speed of light is not that fast

  • on the scale of the universe.

  • So, while vacuum decay is

  • fascinatingly scary,

  • right now, there are other things

  • we should be more afraid of.

  • In contrast to vacuum decay,

  • we have the power to prepare

  • for most of them.

  • Videos like this one

  • take hundreds of hours to make, so

  • support us on Patreon

  • if you'd like to learn more about

  • the destruction of everything.

  • It really helps us out.

  • We tried to destroy the universe

  • at least once every few months.

  • So let us know in the comments,

  • if you have doomsday scenarios

  • you would like us to cover.

  • Subtitles by the Amara.org community

What if our universe

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The Most Efficient Way to Destroy the Universe – False Vacuum

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    陳冠宇 posted on 2016/10/22
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