Supernovas are among the most powerful events in the universe, yet it cannot hold a candle to Vacuum Decay
Supernovas are among the most powerful events in the universe, yet it cannot hold a candle to Vacuum Decay NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon STScI

It is possible for the universe to self destruct in a manner that will fundamentally wipe out matter in its most basic form that could possibly make it impossible to recover? It might have already started, but there is no way of knowing.

Vacuum decay is a way in which universe could destroy itself and to understand just how this could work, one needs a basic understanding of a few basic physics principles. First, consider energy levels -- all physical matter has an energy level, that means an object, or matter has higher energy levels when there is more energy within its system and vice versa, Kurzgesagt (IaN) explains this with a log of wood- it has high chemical energy and when burned, it gives off heat energy, but the ashes it leaves behind exhibit low energy when compared to its previous state wood.

Stability is the next concept, also called entropy, it is a state where there is as little energy in matter as possible and everything in the universe is constantly trying to achieve this ground state. Once achieved, it will simply remain like that. Every system exhibits this property, even in the world of quantum mechanics, explains IaN. The entire universe, as it is believed now to be, gets its properties from what is known as quantum fields—the rules of the universe. They too want to be in the lowest possible energy level and this is known as a vacuum state.

Physicists now believe, within the current realm of understanding, that all the existing quantum fields have reached this vacuum state except the Higgs Field, which is believed to have not yet reached its low energy and stable state. Higgs Field is likely to be metastable and not completely stable, notes IaN. If it is not in its vacuum state, then it is possibly only behaving like it is, hence the term "false vacuum".

The Higgs Field governs the properties that give physical objects their mass, so if it is in a false vacuum, then it is obviously not fully rested and will want to move to that state. The Higgs Field, if it were to finally start moving toward its vacuum state, it would start to rip apart everything in its wake.

Timeline of the metric expansion of space, where space (including hypothetical non-observable portions of the universe) is represented at each time by the circular sections.
Timeline of the metric expansion of space, where space (including hypothetical non-observable portions of the universe) is represented at each time by the circular sections. Ryan Kaldari via Wikimedia commons

There is no way to prepare for something like this and there will be a sign of it actually happening, explains IaN. Once the process starts, there is no way to stop it. The energy released when it finally explodes, will set off a chain reaction which will grow at the speed of light in all directions, dismantling reality along the way.

Whatever this exploding, expanding sphere touches, is instantly wiped out of existence. It is too fast to prepare for and in any case, there is nothing that can realistically be done.

The report goes on to explain that the end of the universe is not the worse thing that vacuum decay can do. Simply changing the Higgs Field can dismantle physics as we know it, but completely burning out all its energy could be devastating. Destroying chemistry as a subject itself could make life impossible to re-emerge.

However, False Vacuum and Vacuum Decay are concepts that are based on how theoretical physicists have so far understood the workings of the universe. It might be wrong, and even disproved with further understanding of the subject.

If it is true, and there is an ever-expanding sphere devouring everything along the way, even then, the universe is simply too big for it to actually reach Earth in time to destroy humans. At the speed of light, it takes billions of years for light itself to get here, so at the moment, it is more than likely that the planet is safe. Also, the universe is constantly expanding, so as more matter is destroyed, the space between galaxies is getting bigger by the day. One can only hope.