Experts warn of 'black wave' that could sweep universe and end life

The earth is at risk from the universe suddenly turning "inside-out", causing human life to be extinguished at the speed of light, experts said yesterday.

The earth is at risk from the universe suddenly turning "inside-out", causing human life to be extinguished at the speed of light, experts said yesterday.

Dr Benjamin Allanach, from the particle physics laboratory at CERN in Geneva, warned of the prospect of a "black wave" sweeping over the world.

"The universe would suddenly and spontaneously swap from its present state into one where the electric force would turn off, and it would all become dark," he said.

The switch would be from our present state to one predicted in the theory of "supersymmetry", which states that every normal matter particle has a heavier counterpart.

It is theoretically possible that, at any point in the vacuum of the universe, such a swap could happen and spread like a rip in the fabric of matter, swapping every particle to its heavier counterpart and sucking up energy.

However, Dr Allanach said the universe had lasted 15 billion years and the prospect of the phenomenon was one in 169 million million or the equivalent of winning two consecutive lotteries.

Scientists have worked out how to stop asteroids from destroying the Earth. But Britain is doing little to chart this possible doomsday scenario, so the likelihood of a huge piece of rocky cosmic litter striking the Earth is just as likely as when it happened to the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Dr Duncan Steel, of the University of Salford, said methods to prevent an asteroid strike had been devised but enough warning had to be given to prepare nuclear weapons to divert it away from Earth.

However, Britain is not carrying out any observation of "near-Earth objects", and no organisation is watching the skies in the southern hemisphere from where a civilisation-destroying object more than 500 metres across could fall.

That will probably not happen this century. But Dr Steel said that in terms of the potential benefit compared to its cost, the project should have the highest priority. "We check for bombs on planes not because there are lots of bombs but because the consequences are catastrophic," he said.

Without such measures, the first we might know of an asteroid impact on the other side of the Earth would be earthquakes, followed 45 minutes after the impact by hot rocks raining down from the sky.

"The impact of a one-kilometre asteroid would set the Earth ringing like a bell, with quakes all over," said Dr Steel.

The biggest problems, in which up to half of humanity would be wiped out, would be the poisoning of the atmosphere by the nitrous oxides created in the impact.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'