SCIENCE
09/08/2014 12:38 pm ET Updated Sep 08, 2014

Hawking Says Higgs Boson Could Destroy The Universe, But Here's Why You Shouldn't Worry

CAMBRIDGE, CAMBRIDGESHIRE - SEPTEMBER 19:  Professor Stephen Hawking attends the gala screening of 'Hawking' on the opening n
CAMBRIDGE, CAMBRIDGESHIRE - SEPTEMBER 19: Professor Stephen Hawking attends the gala screening of 'Hawking' on the opening night of the Cambridge Film Festival held at Emmanuel College on September 19, 2013 in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire. (Photo by Karwai Tang/Getty Images)

Could the Higgs boson destroy the universe?

Stephen Hawking says it's possible, the U.K. newspaper Daily Express reported. As the celebrated physicist writes in the preface to a new book, “Starmus, 50 Years of Man in Space:

The Higgs potential has the worrisome feature that it might become megastable at energies above 100bn giga-electron-volts (GeV). This could mean that the universe could undergo catastrophic vacuum decay, with a bubble of the true vacuum expanding at the speed of light. This could happen at any time and we wouldn't see it coming.

Did you catch that? Hawking warns that if scientists accelerate the Higgs to incredibly high energy levels, the particle could lead to the complete collapse of space and time as we know it.

That sounds pretty bad. But don't worry. Hawking says a Higgs calamity is highly unlikely since a particle accelerator large enough to create such conditions doesn't exist -- in fact, the device would have to be larger than Earth itself.

Whew.

Evidence confirming the existence of the Higgs boson was found in 2012.

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