How to Avoid a Cosmic Catastrophe

Think about a complicated civilization someplace within the universe, which developed a particle accelerator that collides electrons on the Planck vitality, the size the place gravity have to be described quantum mechanically. This vitality scale isn’t any small feat for a collider, because it corresponds to 10 quintillion (1019) instances the remainder mass of the proton. To succeed in this vitality with our present acceleration expertise would require a linear collider 10,000 light-years in size.

However varied ideas of laser plasma accelerators, on which I labored throughout my Ph.D., can presumably shorten the required acceleration distance by an element of 10,000, shrinking the dimensions of such a collider to the dimensions of the Oort cloud that surrounds the photo voltaic system. And so, one may optimistically think about {that a} extremely superior civilization may generate electron collisions at Planck energies inside its dwelling planetary system.

Because it seems, the hypothetical feasibility of such an experiment is a cause for concern to all civilizations within the universe. Let me clarify.

Primarily based on the accelerating growth of the universe, we all know that the vacuum is just not empty however has some darkish vitality density. Collisions of particles on the Planck vitality can set off an area tunneling of the vacuum to a decrease vitality state. The quantum transition between the 2 states could require excessive energies to beat the barrier that separates the 2 states, in addition to to provide a sufficiently big bubble in order that the vitality gained from the rise in its quantity would exceed the vitality invested within the pressure of its floor space. That floor is harking back to a cleaning soap bubble pores and skin, right here being blown by burning the darkish vitality “gas” within it.

Triggering vacuum decay in a sufficiently massive bubble on the collider location would produce an increasing burning entrance, a so-called “area wall,” behind which the vacuum vitality density shall be transformed into warmth—simply as a detonation wave burns via an explosive materials. This spherical burning entrance will transfer outward on the pace of sunshine and launch an unprecedented quantity of vitality into house, heating all the pieces alongside its path. If all of the darkish vitality is transformed to warmth, it will convey an infinite quantity swept up by the burning entrance to a temperature of 30 levels above absolute zero, 10 instances hotter and 10,000 instances denser in vitality than the radiation of the cosmic microwave background, left over from the recent massive bang.

Would such a warmth wave be a cause for concern? The dangerous information is that we’d not obtain any advance warning earlier than this cosmic catastrophe hit us within the face as a result of no precursor sign can transfer sooner than mild to alert us to the danger. However maybe that is additionally excellent news, because it implies that any ensuing devastation would happen immediately and be as stunning because the Chicxulub impactor was for the dinosaurs. We might by no means know what hit us.

One technique to keep away from a cosmic disaster of this kind is to ascertain an interstellar treaty, much like the Nuclear Take a look at Ban Treaty, signed first in 1963 by the governments of the Soviet Union, the UK and the US. The target of the “Planck Collider Treaty” can be to guard our cosmic surroundings from artificially produced area partitions. With no such treaty, we may solely want that every one civilizations would behave responsibly after they acquired the technological maturity to construct a Planck-energy collider. We must hope that our neighbors would exhibit cosmic duty.

In the long run, the necessity to signal a treaty is simply urgent inside our galaxy, the Milky Means, and its nearest neighbor, Andromeda; it doesn’t lengthen past the Native Group of galaxies. Even with out a treaty signed or honored on prolonged intergalactic scales, the accelerated growth of the universe will finally save us from the danger of a Planck collider disaster. All galaxies past “Milkomeda” (the results of an eventual merger between Milky Means and Andromeda, which my colleague T.J. Cox and I named in a 2007 paper) will finally recede away from us sooner than mild. As I confirmed in a 2002 paper, as soon as all different galaxies go away our cosmic occasion horizon, nothing occurring inside them may have an effect on us as a result of all causal indicators propagate at most on the pace of sunshine. As soon as the universe ages by one other issue of ten, Milkomeda will solely be surrounded by darkish house.

The accelerated cosmic growth will carry away from us all of the dangerous Planck colliders inside distant galaxies, finally defending us from any mishaps in them. This constitutes one more instance of Mom Nature being variety to us. We’re blessed by an inescapable social distancing on a cosmic scale. In any case, a cosmic area wall could possibly be way more harmful than COVID-19 as a result of elementary physics presents no escape from its burning sweep on the pace of sunshine.

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