Black Holes and the Decay of the Universe

Who: Ruth Gregory (Durham)
When: Monday, April 25, 2016 at 14:15
Where: The CP³ meeting room

Just like the decay of a radioactive nucleus, under certain conditions the universe can undergo decay by quantum mechanical tunnelling from a “false vacuum”. This process of vacuum decay is well captured by a classical solution – the “instanton”, first found by Coleman and de Luccia. This instanton describes the nucleation of a bubble of true vacuum that then expands, and represents a first order phase transition of the universe from the false to true vacuum. However, just as impurities can act as nucleation sites in a phase transition, I will explain how gravitational impurities, in the guise of black holes, can also act as nucleation sites for decay, and how the probability of vacuum decay is enhanced. I will discuss implications for the stability of the Higgs vacuum.

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