The mass of the Higgs boson may be telling us something profound and puzzling about the future of the universe

Jon Butterworth in The Guardian:

95c7f7af-70f5-42b6-878e-ccf7ac627b20-460x276Many explanations of the Higgs talk about wine bottles or Mexican hats. The idea is that the universe is rolling around in the lowest bit of an energy surface – in the dip in the brim of the hat, or at the outer edge of the base of the wine bottle, depending on your preferred analogy. The dip is the place where the energy is minimised. This makes the universe stable, since to go anywhere else on the surface would require an enormous amount of energy.

The masses of the fundamental particles, especially of the top quark and the Higgs boson, play a role in determining the shape of this surface. For some values of those masses, the brim of the hat is the lowest possible energy value and the universe is completely stable. For other values, the brim is the wrong shape and the universe is completely unstable. Since the universe seems to have lasted for 13.8 billion years, those values are in quite extreme contradiction with observation, even before you consider the particle masses.

There is a third possibility however, which is that the brim of the hat turns down again and there is another wiggle, another dip, which is even lower than the one the universe currently occupies. To get to this lower state, the universe has to go over a bump, which classically would require lots of energy, so the universe remains stable. But in quantum mechanics, there is a small possibility of “tunneling” through the bump, and finding the new, lower energy region. On a smaller scale, this tunneling effect is seen in radioactive decays and elsewhere.

More here.