Gravity saved the universe from collapse after the Big Bang, say some scientists. Immediately following its creation, the universe should have crumpled in on itself and disappeared according to particle physics, but, it is still here, and gravity may be the reason why.
In 2012 physicists located the Higgs boson particle using CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. Then the Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization (BICEP2) was built in the South Pole to detect the cosmic microwave background. Scientists using BICEP 2 identified the B-mode CMB which provides clues to the rapid inflation of the early universe. After analyzing these discoveries, physicists came to the dispiriting conclusion that the universe should not exist according to the laws of physics as they understand them.
The Higgs field fills the entire universe and endows all matter with mass. If enough energy is injected into the Higgs field, the Higgs field would collapse and the universe would experience a “big crunch.” The Big Bang itself provided the massive energy influx needed to collapse the Higgs field. The entire universe should have lasted less than one second. Immediately after expanding, it should have been thrown into chaos and destroyed. What kept the universe in elegant order? Currently, the universe is comfortably balanced with enough energy to provide mass but not enough to “crunch” it out of existence. What is the glue that holds it together?
The astrophysicists that initially studied the Higgs boson particle and the properties of the Higgs field felt that there must be some new aspect of physics waiting to be discovered. Scientists around the world began hunting for an exotic new physics to explain their observations; a particle that counteracts the Higgs tendency towards chaos and keeps the universe stable.
The answer to the conundrum may be a much more familiar force. Physicists from Imperial College London worked with others at Copenhagen and Helsinki universities to figure out why the universe, along with the earth, is here. They published their research in the journal Physical Review Letters. The scientists concluded that the interaction between gravity and the Higgs field would stabilize the universe. Gravity controls the energy that would push the Higgs field into collapse.
There is a dichotomy between understanding the tiny forces that rule the universe and the large forces. The bonds that hold quarks, leptons and even atoms together do not seem to work the same way that gravity holds stars, solar systems and planets together. Reconciling the differences has been a large part of physics the last few decades. The Standard Model of Particle Physics, which explains the interactions of elementary particles, cannot provide an answer as to why the universe did not collapse. According to particle physics, the Higgs field should have caused the big crunch.
The continuing expansion of the universe is an accepted fact. The initial inflation gave birth to the stars and galaxies. Expansion has even sped up. The universe rests in a valley of the Higgs field which provides enough energy for mass but not enough for collapse. If pushed into the next valley, the universe would crumple. An unknown large energy barrier keeps the universe from falling into the next valley.
However, if the tiny particles of matter also interact with gravitational fields, which operate between massive objects, the properties of the Higgs field could be affected. Even a small interaction would be enough to stabilize the Higgs field and prevent chaos from ensuing from the Big Bang.
The new study posits that new physics are unnecessary to explain the origins of the universe. Gravity causes a spacetime curvature which may have controlled the energy of the Big Bang. Perhaps the resulting shape of the universe prevented the Higgs field from collapsing. Maybe the gravitational fields limited the energy flowing into the Higgs field. Imperial College physics professor Arttu Rajante says they need to further measure the interaction between gravity and the Higgs field. Once that occurs, he says, scientists will have even more clues about how humanity arose.
The interplay between the Higgs field which gives everything in the universe mass, and the large force of gravity, may have created the universe. The Big Bang should have led immediately to the big crunch according to particle physics. As the universe is still here, the Standard Model needs to be reworked. The answer may be simple. According to some scientists, gravity saved the universe from collapse after the Big Bang.
By: Rebecca Savastio