First signs of the phenomenon that could destroy the Universe

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Space

Editorial of the Technological Innovation Website – 02/02/2024

It is a speculative theory, which tries to explain the creation of everything, which also opens up the prospect of the end of everything.
[Imagem: WikiImages/Pixabay]

Creation and end of the Universe

Physicists from the universities of Trento (Italy) and Newcastle (United Kingdom) have obtained the first experimental evidence of a phenomenon called “false vacuum decay”.

The actual occurrence of this phenomenon may have been responsible not only for the creation of everything in the Universe, including matter and space-time itself, but it could also be responsible for the extinction of everything, an authentic final destruction of the Universe.

“Vacuum decay is believed to play a central role in the creation of space, time and matter in the Big Bang, but until now there has been no experimental test. In particle physics, the vacuum decay of the Higgs boson could alter the laws of physics, producing what has been described as the ‘ultimate ecological catastrophe’,” said Professor Ian Moss.

Vacuum decay can be understood as a phase transition. Phase transitions are everywhere, like when water turns to ice. But there are also more exotic phase transitions, which occur at temperatures close to absolute zero and which are generated not by thermal fluctuations, but by quantum fluctuations – it is these cosmological phase transitions that are of interest when we are talking about the creation and eventual destruction of the Universe. .

In quantum field theory, when a not-so-stable state (false vacuum) transforms into a true stable state (true vacuum), this is called “false vacuum decay”, happening through the creation of small localized bubbles. Although theories can predict how often this bubble formation occurs, there is not much experimental evidence of the process.

Illustration of the experiment revealing the emergence of true vacuum bubbles.
[Imagem: A. Zenesini et al. – 10.1038/s41567-023-02345-4]

False vacuum decay

The team has now obtained the first indication of the decay of the false vacuum using precisely controlled atomic arrangements – a supercold gas, less than a microkelvin above absolute zero -, showing the formation of bubbles in accordance with the theories.

The experiment confirms the origin of decay in the quantum field and its thermal activation, paving the way for the emulation of out-of-equilibrium quantum field phenomena in atomic systems, such as magnetic phase transitions – in addition, of course, to understanding the emergence of the Universe itself. and, eventually, your final destination.

“Using the power of ultracold atom experiments to simulate analogues of quantum physics in other systems – in this case, the early Universe itself – is a very interesting area of ​​research at the moment,” said Professor Tom Billam.

It is an innovative experiment, but it is also just the first step in exploring vacuum decay: The experiment is an example of a quantum simulator that reproduces an “analogue” of the situation sought, and yet an imperfect analogue, since the thermal component is present in the experiment, but theory says that it does not exist in the decay of the false vacuum.

Thus, the ultimate goal is to find the decay of the vacuum at the temperature of absolute zero, where the process must be induced purely by quantum fluctuations of the vacuum, without any thermal component.

False v decay

Illustration of the false vacuum transition using another analogous atomic system.
[Imagem: Bo Cheng]

How False Vacuum Decay Created Everything

Some theoretical models stipulate that the initial state of the Universe was metastable, that is, it was not in its lowest possible energy state. This is the “false vacuum”, which implies that there would be a “true vacuum”, which would arise when the false vacuum decays – remember when one radioactive particle turns into another by decay.

If, and only if, the false vacuum decay process generates a true vacuum bubble, however tiny, it will expand at the speed of light, converting everything in its path (including matter, energy, and even the laws of physics) in the new vacuum state.

This could either have created the Universe or destroy it. However, even in the most enthusiastic circles of physics and cosmology, these theories are considered “highly speculative.”

Bibliography:

Article: False vacuum decay via bubble formation in ferromagnetic superfluids
Authors: A. Zenesini, A. Berti, R. Cominotti, C. Rogora, Ian G. Moss, TP Billam, I. Carusotto, G. Lamporesi, A. Recati, G. Ferrari
Magazine: Nature Physics
DOI: 10.1038/s41567-023-02345-4

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The article is in Portuguese

Tags: signs phenomenon destroy Universe

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