Unlike God, the Higgs Boson is probably real.
I’m no physicist, but I have a relatively solid grounding in the basics of quantum mechanics and particle physics (this is not a credential, but the non-fiction section of my book case is roughly 70% to 30% linguistics books to physics books, and I am a linguist; I considered studying physics at one point but I didn’t think I wanted to deal with quite that much math), so what follows is basically me trying to explain it to myself.
Today, scientists at CERN states that they were increasingly sure that the particle discovered back in July is a Higgs Boson. Whether or not it’s the Higgs Boson consistent with the Standard Model of particle physics, or another boson consistent with Peter Higgs’s prediction but outside the Standard Model remains to be seen.
The Higgs Boson is predicted to have a mass of 124-126 times the mass of a proton, and so far, the data seems to be bearing that out, which is where things get interesting. In the early days after the Big Bang, no particles had mass, save for the Higgs Boson. As the universe cooled down, the Higgs Boson caused other particles to acquire mass, an entirely new property, something physicists term a “phase shift.”
Normally a phase shift is something that happens on your stove or in your freezer, when water turns to ice (liquid to solid) or to steam (liquid to gas). In the above case, the phase shift was from “no-mass” to “mass.” For, apparently, everything.
For reasons to do with the mass of the Higgs Boson itself (and I’ve as yet been unable to find any explanation as to why that specific mass is important, but I’m going to trust that it is), there is a not-insignificant possibility that the universe will undergo another phase shift in the far distant future.
Think about what that means, if the last phase shift was from things having no mass (save the Higgs Boson), to having mass. Now, none of us will be around to see what happens in 10 billion years, but as the new phase, whatever it is (seriously, it’s quite likely that everything in the universe will acquire some property that currently does not exist at all), appears in the universe, it may expand in little bubbles and collide with the currently extant universe until the new phase of the universe replaces the volume of the current universe entirely.
Now, this is only one possible scenario, but if true, when it comes to cataclysms, the natural universe really puts God in his paltry place.