Our universe may end the same way it was created: with a big, sudden bang.
That’s according to new research from a group of Harvard physicists, who found that the destabilization of the Higgs boson — a tiny quantum particle that gives other particles mass — could lead to an explosion of energy that would consume everything in the known universe and upend the laws of physics and chemistry.
As part of their study, published last month in the journal Physical Review D, the researchers calculated when our universe could end.
It’s nothing to worry about just yet. They settled on a date 10 139 years from now or 10 million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion years in the future.
And they’re at least 95% sure — a statistical measure of certainty — that the universe will last at least another 10 58 years.
The Higgs boson, discovered in 2012 by researchers smashing subatomic protons together at the Large Hadron Collider, has a specific mass. If the researchers are correct, that mass could change, turning physics on its head and tear apart the elements that make life possible, according to the New York Post.
And rather than burning slowly over trillions of years, an unstable Higgs boson could create an instantaneous bang, like the Big Bang that created our universe.
The researchers say a collapse could be driven by the curvature of space-time around a black hole, somewhere deep in the universe.
When space-time curves around super-dense objects, like a black hole, it throws the laws of physics out of whack and causes particles to interact in all sorts of strange ways.
The researchers say the collapse may have already begun — but we have no way of knowing, as the Higgs boson particle may be far away from where we can analyze it, within our seemingly infinite universe.
“It turns out we’re right on the edge between a stable universe and an unstable universe,” Joseph Lykken, a physicist from the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory who was not involved in the study, told the Post.
He added: “We’re sort of right on the edge where the universe can last for a long time, but eventually, it should go ‘boom.'”