The risk of a collapse of the universe is even greater than previously thought and the process may have already started somewhere in the universe, scientists claim.
Physicists have long predicted that the universe may collapse and that everything in it will be compressed to a small hard ball.
New calculations from physicists at the University of Southern Denmark now confirm this prediction, suggesting sooner or later a radical shift in forces of the universe will cause every little particle in it to become extremely heavy.
Everything - every grain of sand on Earth, every planet in the solar system and every galaxy - will become millions of billions times heavier than it is now, and this will have disastrous consequences: The new weight will squeeze all material into a small, super hot and super heavy ball, and the universe as we know it will cease to exist.
This violent process across the universe is called a phase transition and is very similar to what happens when, for example water turns to steam or a magnet heats up and loses its magnetisation.
The phase transition in the universe will happen if a bubble is created where the Higgs-field associated with the Higgs-particle reaches a different value than the rest of the universe.
If this new value results in lower energy and if the bubble is large enough, the bubble will expand at the speed of light in all directions.
All elementary particles inside the bubble will reach a mass, that is much heavier than if they were outside the bubble, and thus they will be pulled together and form super-massive centres.
"Many theories and calculations predict such a phase transition - but there have been some uncertainties in the previous calculations. Now we have performed more precise calculations, and we see two things: Yes, the universe will probably collapse, and: A collapse is even more likely than the old calculations predicted," said Jens Frederik Colding Krog, PhD student at the Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics Phenomenology at University of Southern Denmark.
"The phase transition will start somewhere in the universe and spread from there. Maybe the collapse has already started somewhere in the universe and right now it is eating its way into the rest of the universe.
"Maybe a collapsed is starting right now right here here. Or maybe it will start far away from here in a billion years.
We do not know," said Krog, co-author of the study article published in the Journal of High Energy Physics.