There’s a curious thing about our universe. According to our best recent understanding of how it came to be, it shouldn’t still exist.
Physicists who have been studying the Higgs particle or Higgs boson, which was discovered in 2012 and is the particle that gives mass to all particles, have come to the disquieting conclusion that the production of those particles during the rapid acceleration of the universe after the Big Bang, the inflation phase, should have caused our universe to get all wobbly and unstable and collapse.
Of course, that can’t be right, right? We’re here, aren’t we. Uncollapsed.
Scientists asked themselves that question, too, of course. A new theory holds that gravity might have provided the stabilizing influence needed.
“The Standard Model of particle physics, which scientists use to explain elementary particles and their interactions, has so far not provided an answer to why the universe did not collapse following the Big Bang,” explains Professor Arttu Rajantie, from the Department of Physics at Imperial College London.
“Our research investigates the last unknown parameter in the Standard Model — the interaction between the Higgs particle and gravity. This parameter cannot be measured in particle accelerator experiments, but it has a big effect on the Higgs instability during inflation. Even a relatively small value is enough to explain the survival of the universe without any new physics!”
Since the interaction can’t be measured in particle accelerator experiments, the physicists from Imperial College London, and the Universities of Copenhagen and Helsinki who put forth the theory are turning to cosmological data, studying findings about cosmic microwave background radiation and gravitational waves from European Space Agency missions.
“Our aim is to measure the interaction between gravity and the Higgs field using cosmological data,” says Professor Rajantie. “If we are able to do that, we will have supplied the last unknown number in the Standard Model of particle physics and be closer to answering fundamental questions about how we are all here.”
[Source: Imperial College of London]
Image of the center of the Milky Way galaxy via Wikimedia Commons