False Vacuum
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Basic Information

False Vaccum is a hypothesized metastable area of space which appears to be a "normal" vacuum but which might spontaneously tunnel to a lower energy state. Once this happens at one point, it would create a chain reaction as surrounding areas revert to the same lower energy level. Furthermore, the released energy would form a barrier which would expand near the speed of light, destroying everything in its path without any forewarning. It might even be possible that behind that barrier entirely new laws of physics would be in effect.

It has been speculated that we might be living in a False Vaccum state. Furthermore, it might be possible that if particle accelerators reach high enough energies, they might trigger such a collapse through a high-energy collision. Current particle accelerators, such as the one at CERN, are nowhere near powerful enough for this, as observations of collisions of cosmic rays indicate that these occur at much higher energy levels than could be reproduced by current particle accelerator technology.

See Also


Game and Story Use

  • In a setting with FTL Travel, it might actually be possible to realize that a False Vacuum collapse is happening somewhere (mainly by the fact that nobody ever returns from a spherical region of space expanding at the speed of light - perhaps centered on a former planet which had the most powerful particle accelerator ever). How a space-faring civilization adapts to this could be an interesting theme to explore.
    • In theory, it is possible to outrace the catastrophe, if you have FTL drives. However, any new colonies built would have to be temporary, as the wave front is always approaching. All colonists know that what they are building ultimately cannot last…
      • And sooner or later, the question is where you can run to - the milky way galaxy has a diameter of 100,000 light years, so in 100,000 years or less you will have reached the edge of the galaxy without any further star systems to colonize. Better hope your FTL drive has improved enough to travel to other galaxies…
        • If your drive is good enough, you might be able to search other galaxies for more advanced civilizations who have encountered such a problem before, and dealt with it somehow - and hopefully, you will encounter more than just further expanding bubbles of True Vacuum…
  • A science fiction setting where technology has reached truly cosmic levels might have the technology to stop the growth or even reverse it. It might be the duty of a galaxy-spanning civilization to maintain huge "vacuum dampers" (inevitably as large as planets or even larger) throughout the galaxy to make sure that no False Vacuum collapse happens - and these might be prime targets for nihilistic terrorists or saboteurs from other civilizations.
    • Perhaps the new "laws of physics" within the bubble are more amenable to beings from a different universe - and they might attempt to trigger such a collapse so that they can colonize our own. Perhaps they can create entities capable of living in our universe and send them over as infiltrators and saboteurs so that they can cause such a collapse.
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