By Kelly Dickerson
Stephen Hawking bet Gordon Kane $100 that physicists would not discover the Higgs boson. After losing that bet when physicists detected the particle in 2012, Hawking lamented the discovery, saying it made physics less interesting. Now, in the preface to a new collection of essays and lectures called "Starmus," the famous theoretical physicist is warning that the particle could one day be responsible for the destruction of the known universe.
Hawking is not the only scientist who thinks so. The theory of a Higgs boson doomsday, where a quantum fluctuation creates a vacuum "bubble" that expands through space and wipes out the universe, has existed for a while. However, scientists don't think it could happen anytime soon.
"Most likely it will take 10 to the 100 years [a 1 followed by 100 zeroes] for this to happen, so probably you shouldn't sell your house and you should continue to pay your taxes," Joseph Lykken, a theoretical physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, said during his lecture at the SETI Institute on Sept. 2. "On the other hand it may already happened, and the bubble might be on its way here now. And you won't know because it's going at the speed of light so there's not going to be any warning." [Doomsday: 9 Real Ways Earth Could End]
The Higgs boson, sometimes referred to as the 'god particle,' much to the chagrin of scientists who prefer the official name, is a tiny particle that researchers long suspected existed. Its discovery lends strong support to the Standard Model of particle physics, or the known rules of particle physics that scientists believe govern the basic building blocks of matter. The Higgs boson particle is so important to the Standard Model because it signals the existence of the Higgs field, an invisible energy field present throughout the universe that imbues other particles with mass. Since its discovery two years ago, the particle has been making waves in the physics community.