Universe stability and its mathematical underpinning

December 19, 2013

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Meta-stabilityA CP3 Origins research team from University of Southern Denmark has now, using new mathematical tools, confirmed the early estimates that the Higgs field could exist in two states, just like matter can exist as a liquid or a solid.
In the second state, the Higgs field is billions of times denser than what scientists have already observed. If this ultradense Higgs field exists, then a hypothetical ‘bubble’ of this state (a new universe) could suddenly appear somewhere in the universe at any given moment, similar to when you boil water. The bubble would then expand at the speed of light, entering all of space, and turning the Higgs field from the state it is in now into a new state. All elementary particles inside the bubble will reach a mass much heavier than if they were outside the bubble.

While these physical results were partially established earlier in the literature, the new work of the researchers at CP3 Origins deals mainly with the mathematical foundations of the technique which is used, among other things, also to determine the stability of the universe. The CP3 Origins research team has explicitly demonstrated that the relevant equations governing these computations respect new fundamental mathematical relations which have been overlooked in the past. The relevance of this discovery is that it allows for a mathematically consistent way to organize the computations, such as the stability of the universe for the Standard Model or any extension that might require, for example the presence of dark matter.

“We were amazed to discover that the ultimate fate of our universe was hidden within such high degree of mathematical consistency. It was really a staggering moment for all of us,” said Francesco Sannino, part of the research team.

From the early days of the discovery of the Higgs, in a series of seminal papers, researchers worldwide have tried to estimate whether the universe is stable or not.
The general consensus is that, according to the known forces of the universe constituting the Standard Model, the universe is not absolutely stable but, in fact, metastable. This means that, unless the Standard Model is amended by adding new particles or modifying its interactions, the universe is not in its natural state but rather in a local, metastable state.

You can think of it as a ball (the universe) sitting at a bottom of a valley located slightly above sea level. At the classical level, the ball (our universe) remains confined in the valley, but thanks to quantum mechanics there is a chance for the ball to go through the barrier and reach the sea.  However, this calculable chance, for our universe, is minuscule. It would take close to the lifetime of the universe to tunnel through the new ground state with, however, dramatically different physical consequences.

If an unlikely tunnelling event should emerge, the resulting violent process is known as a ‘phase transition’ and is similar to what happens when, for example, water turns to steam or a magnet heats up and loses its power. For example, according to the Standard Model theory, a phase transition such as this took place one tenth of a billionth of a second after the Big Bang, causing a shift in the fabric of space-time. During this transition, empty space became filled with an invisible substance that we later named as the Higgs field. Some elementary particles interact with this field, gaining energy in the process. This intrinsic energy is known as the mass of a particle.

The detailed research results can be found here: Ref : Journal of High Energy Physics : Standard Model Vacuum Stability and Weyl Consistency Conditions. Authors: Oleg Antipin, Marc Gillioz, Jens Krog, Esben Mølgaard, and Francesco Sannino (CP3-Origins and DIAS). arXiv : 1306.3234