Talk:False vacuum

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The first statement[edit]

The first statement in the article, "A false vacuum is a metastable sector of quantum field theory...," doesn't make any sense. The "sector of quantum field theory" is not, itself, metastable. The adjective "metastable" shouldn't refer to the state of a sector of the theory (unless, of course, the theory, itself, is not completely stable).

Likewise for the following statment, "... Simply put, the false vacuum is a state of a physical theory ...". The false vacuum is not the state of a theory. 16:36, 25 August 2006 (UTC) D.C. George

You're absolutely wrong. Look in any reference on the subject. –Joke 20:56, 25 August 2006 (UTC)
For example, Coleman and de Luccia, the first line of the abstract reads "It is possible for a classical field theory to have two stable homogeneous ground states, only one of which is an absolute energy minimum. In the quantum version of the theory, the ground state of higher energy is a false vacuum, rendered unstable by barrier penetration." State, sector, vacuum – they're interchangeable in modern use – as are unstable and metastable. Coleman wrote the book on the subject, so I'll take his word for it. –Joke 21:00, 25 August 2006 (UTC)

Dear Joke 137,

I'm not suggesting that the theory is wrong. I have no disagreement with the theory. I'm saying that the logic (the syntax) of your description (and that of Coleman and de Luccia) is wrong. It's just plain bad english. A false vacuum is not the state of a theory. It may very well be the state of the vacuum but it's not the condition of the theory, itself. English may not be your native language, in which case you will be forgiven, but Coleman's editor should have corrected this.

If I may suggest a correct way to say it: It is possible in a classical field theory for the vacuum to have two stable homogeneous ground states, ... 15:38, 7 September 2006 (UTC)D.C. George

English certainly is my native language. Coleman, moreover, is known as one of the clearest, most precise expositors in physics. Perhaps you are confused about the usage of the word "state." A state of a quantum theory is used, roughly, to mean "a vector in the Hilbert space of the quantum field theory." It is one object (a vector or wavefunction) among the collection of objects provided by the theory; it is not meant to describe a particular condition that the theory itself finds itself in. For further details, see quantum state. I see no point in discussing this well-established usage further. –Joke 21:02, 7 November 2006 (UTC)

Syntactically, the first sentence is still wrong. "A false vacuum is a metastable sector of a quantum field theory which appears to be a perturbative vacuum but is unstable to instanton effects which tunnel to a lower energy state." Isn't the metastable sector something predicted or described by the theory? The way it's written is like saying Newton's theory obeys the law of gravity (i.e. the theory falls to earth when dropped), when you really mean to say a rock that falls to earth obeys the law of gravity described by Newton's theory. I'm sure readers will get the drift, but it would make more logical sense if where corrected. -BuzzSkyline 13:07, 11 November 2006 (UTC)

More information?[edit]

This is a very interesting (to me personally, at least) topic. Any extra information, particularly about the vacuum metastability event, would be much appreciated.

Things like these make me ever regret not choosing theoretical physics as the profession. IgorSF 16:22, 4 January 2007 (UTC)

Manifold: Time[edit]

A Vacuum Metastability Event was used as a plot device in Stephen Baxter's book Manifold: Time

Speed of Light... and other things[edit]

So if a truer vacuum has less "stuff" in it than what may be a false vacuum, is it likely that this would alter the "maximum" speed of light? Whereas things like dark energy/matter in a false vacuum could theoretically slow light down, light traveling through a true vacuum could reach a closer velocity to it's infinite potential, although by partially filling a true vacuum, it makes less of a true vacuum, thus remaining a finite (although much, much faster) speed. With the stakes on light upped, presuming that just-pre-bigbang the singularity was surrounded by true vacuum, matter could also conceivably move faster... right? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:36, 4 February 2008 (UTC)

You miss one fine detail. Matter may or may not exist inside of the catastrophic event. Indeed, it may and probably WOULD cease to exist as we know it, as the ENTIRE rules of the universe may well be different in substantially enough ways that what we know of as matter, life and universe would not exist. Hence, OUR definition of light speed won't exist there, replaced by the lower energy level light speed variable. MEANWHILE, inside of OUR universe, our rules hold true until the "event horizon" arrives and rudely displaces the rules of the universe. Your flaw in thinking is of thinking of energy in ONE form, versus the reality of MANY forms energy may take. In classical physics, one has potential energy and kinetic energy. That extends quite a lot down to quantum levels, as even a radionuclide shows potential energy, to be released upon decay into kinetic energy of particles and in some cases, photons. The error is in considering one can jump multiple states in the same physical laws environment, which is not true, hence the FTL concept is specious. Hope that clarified, rather than muddied the waters... Wzrd1 (talk) 05:31, 5 August 2011 (UTC)

I don't get it[edit]

So a false vacuum is a lower energy vacuum than our current energy vacuum?

How would that destroy us again? I'm sorry for being stupid. Seriously, it is frustrating for me as well (my stupidity). (talk) 21:03, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

No, the idea is that we are in the false vacuum state, which is at a higher potential (higher energy level) than the 'true' vacuum state. Think of it as ahill with a little depression in the side. If you roll a ball down the hill, it could get stuck in the little depression. That is the false vacuum where we may be. If something came along and knocked the ball over the lip, it could fall all the way to the bottom of the hill, the 'true' vaccuum. The concerns is that a sufficiently heavy particale or energetic collision (like that created in a massive particle accelerator) would be enough to push something over the lip, which would drag the rest of us over. The destruction would be because all of the known constants of nature (speed of light, charge of an electron/proton, mass of elementary particles, etc.) would change, and may not be supportive of existance as we know it (all molecules may spontaneously split apart, as well as all atoms, etc.)
BTW - Don't worry - I don't really get all of it either. Astrobit (talk) 04:31, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
This might help. Imagine a tank of water, but the temperature is below freezing, -10C say. This can happen: the water is supercooled and won't freeze until a "seed" ice crystal forms. At that temperature, ice has a lower free energy than water, so water is a false ground state (= false vacuum) and ice is the true ground state. Eventually the seed crystal forms ("nucleates") and the whole system suddenly freezes, i.e. makes a transition to its true ground state. This "destroys" the water and replaces it with ice. Dark Formal (talk) 21:32, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
Gee, it sure would be nice if the article had some sort of helpful analogies and used clear language in order to make its high-falutin concepts more accessible to non-specialists. If the article is only penetrable to people who would be quite comfortable reading texts in the field anyway, what the fuck is it doing in an encyclopedia? Graft | talk 21:25, 14 May 2008 (UTC)
I agree that the article should be more understandable to non-specialist readers. Is the water analogy helpful? Would you like to see it incorporated in to the article? Do you have any more specific suggestions? Dark Formal (talk) 02:54, 17 May 2008 (UTC)
I like both the hill analogy and the water analogy. I can recognize that idea in the first sentence after hearing it, but the notion is so heavily concealed under jargon that it's practically useless. For example, I shouldn't have to know what an 'instanton' or 'tunneling' between states is in order to appreciate the concept. Also, as others have pointed out above, the notion of a state of a quantum field theory is an unclear concept. These terms are obviously important, but they should be introduced somewhat at leisure, after the reader has gotten some sort of idea of what the hell is going on, rather than attacking them with it at the outset. I don't think an analogy is necessary in the intro; clarity could just be achieved with simpler language. Graft | talk 03:46, 17 May 2008 (UTC)
I take it this is never going to get fixed. This article would be something if it wasn't so hard to grasp. Maybe I'll take a crack at incorporating the simple analogies into the article. Then again, maybe it is too depressing to really think about. (talk) 20:21, 8 May 2010 (UTC)

But the tunnelling is crucial to why the false vacuum hypothesis is so lethal. Otherwise we would be happy knowing that the energy just isn't there to make a seed of ground-state vacuum (cf the water would remain supercooled forever). But quantum mechanical process mean that everything has to happen eventually... — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:05, 7 May 2012 (UTC)

article on "True Vacuum"[edit]

Since there is an article on "false vacuum", how about an article on "true vacuum"? easonrevant 22:18 EST, 10 May 2008 —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:20, 11 May 2008 (UTC)

I think the idea is more like a dichotomy between "unstable vacuum" and "stable vacuum" than "false vacuum" and "true vacuum". -Rolypolyman (talk) 02:27, 5 July 2009 (UTC)
No, they are both stable; the question is whether they are globally minumum, or just locally. (talk) 14:08, 19 April 2011 (UTC)

What *IS* true vacuum? Since the false vacuum is theoretical, the "true vacuum" would be even MORE hypothetical, as we have zero knowledge of what the true vacuum state is. Hence, a true vacuum theory is utterly impossible, as no possible measurements COULD be conceived in THIS universe.Wzrd1 (talk) 05:33, 5 August 2011 (UTC)

Many Worlds[edit]

The "Many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics" seems nonsensical to me. The same 'argument' could be used to argue against all catastrophic events. Is there a particular paper that someone is quoting in garbled form here? Sigfpe (talk) 15:45, 25 July 2008 (UTC)

I agree. This information is at best irrelevant and at worst outright wrong. I also note that it was deleted after the above comment was made, but restored some years later, possibly being mistaken for vandalism. I have added citation tags to it, but would very much recommend that it is just deleted. Davidros (talk) 23:13, 1 May 2011 (UTC)
Your notion of irrelevancy or outright wrong qualifies for even general and special relativity, until they were largely proved. Whether or not something "seems nonsensical to me" or not is irrelevant, the theories of physics is what the topic is about. One could say the very same thing about helicopter flight, ignoring how it WORKS in the real world.

Indeed, one could explain CP violation easily, as a false vacuum state COULD account for a "preference" for one matter over another (matter vs antimatter). Or, as a different example, along the lines of Sigfpe's lines, "Gravity doesn't make sense to me. Indeed, it's nonsensical, as it seems higher to me in the morning than the evening." It's purely subjective. Wzrd1 (talk) 05:39, 5 August 2011 (UTC)

Pop culture analogy[edit]

I was trying to explain this to myself, and then maybe if I got a handle of it, someone else. I was trying to find a suitable pop culture reference to make an analogy. I thought of Donnie Darco (Spoiler alert, paragraph 3). Is that a good fit for an analogy? Iflipti

I just thought of another one. The episode of Star Trek The Next Generation called "Remember Me" where Dr. Beverly Crusher becomes trapped in an alternate universe confined by a shrinking warp field. As the field shrinks the alternate universe destabilizes and people, planets and memories disappear until she finally realizes what is happening and escapes just before the alternate universe implodes. In Darco's case, nothing disappears, but certain benchmarks are met that outline a convergence of events.

In both of these cases, the "host universe" is an unstable alternate universe with a ticking clock, and a sense of deflation or pressure differential. In Darco's case the alternate universe is destined to end after about a month, and in Crusher's case a matter of a few days. Does this work?

Coleman and de Luccia quote[edit]

A few editorial issues:

  • The article never establishes who Coleman and de Luccia are. There are no links to articles about them either.
  • "This possibility has now been eliminated," but the article never mentions what this conclusion means or how it was reached (presumably in the paper)

Article Needs Plain English Descriptions in Parallel to Technical Language[edit]

Please remember that Wikipedia is a public-use encyclopedia and therefore should always include every-day-language descriptions in parallel to technical descriptions. Lets remember that it's bad manners to only use tech-speak when non-scientists are also a part of the audience.

'Technical' banner added until corrections are made (techno-science language may remain in the article, but must also have a parallel writing track that non-scientists can follow, where possible).

Remember also that scientists (ultimately) get their grant money from the public, so it's good practice to learn how to explain science concepts to the public. (talk) 21:31, 2 April 2011 (UTC)

The article is technical because the subject is technical. If you can't understand it, then that says more about the modern American anti-science mindset than it does about the topic in question. (talk) 20:19, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
To be less dismissive: Explaining the issue in "plain language" would introduce inappropriate and inaccurate simplifications, leading uneducated listeners to false and misleading conclusions. (talk) 20:24, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
I'll COMPLETELY agree with the last talk mention. The subject is BEYOND highly technical and theoretical, by nature. The mathematics are beyond obscene to consider and beyond notion for whatever a "true vacuum" IS, hence the rules of the true vacuum universe is beyond our imagination, as we have no common constants to consider and base a prediction upon.

So, regrettably, it HAS to be highly technical. I'm one of those poor SOB's that is beyond lousy at basic mathematics, but my building of mental models of that which is expressed by mathematics is unable to be explained by those gifted with arithmetic abilities. Wzrd1 (talk) 05:45, 5 August 2011 (UTC)

Okay, but even if we're not talking about dropping it to simple-english wiki levels, we could still drop it below where it is. Right now I'm having trouble believing anyone who doesn't already know the material could understand it, and at that point there doesn't seem to be a lot of point, eh? I'm no scientist but in general can understand and enjoy reading about things like this, but I can't scratch the surface of this.

In other words, don't dumb it down, but drop it to something like a collegiate level rather than a quantum-physicist level. (talk) 22:19, 12 September 2011 (UTC)

Check the section above: I don't get it. The tank of water analogy by Dark Formal helped clear it up for me. SlightSmile 23:45, 12 September 2011 (UTC)

Vacuum genesis[edit]

Has Vacuum genesis something to do with this article? --Dia^ (talk) 12:59, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

Is it theoretically possible in quantum field theory to imagine a "super vacuum" that would not even contain space and time ? 23:57, 14 September 2011 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

Stop exaggerating[edit]

"[our universe] could cease to exist as we know it, if a true vacuum happened to nucleate"

How is a bubble expanding at the speed of light going to wipe out our entire universe when the universe is expanding at much greater speeds? Doubledork (talk) 01:32, 17 March 2013 (UTC)

  • Simple. Our universe was expanding faster than light shortly after the Big Bang. Now it is not expanding faster than light, though it is still expanding. Doktor Wunderbar (talk) 18:44, 6 July 2015 (UTC)

The First Section Was Pseudoscientific Nonsense[edit]

I have deleted and re-written the introduction. What was previously written was pseudoscience. (It wasn't just inaccurate, the whole thing was meaningless nonsense.)

Could whoever keeps filling the introduction with a large amount of their own original research (which disagrees with the scientific consensus) please stop doing so. Wikipedia is not for original research that you're unable to get published anywere else. Use for that. What you write isn't even related to false vacuum and the animation provided whilst very pretty is also unrelated to false vacuums. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:27, 11 February 2015 (UTC)


The word "instanton" needs to be removed from this article in every instance. The key concept is "domain wall", not an instanton. An instanton is not an extended object, but is a point in both space and time, whereas the domain wall is three-dimensional in its bulk. The intuition is borrowed from QM, where the tunneling event IS an instanton for a double well potential, but in the case of higher dimensions the objects become domain walls. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Tin2019 (talkcontribs) 12:48, 11 May 2015 (UTC)

Why is it destructive? (The article does not adequately explain this)[edit]

The vacuum of space is, by our definition, a region with a pressure of 0 Pa. Let's consider pressure as a relative quantity, not an absolute quantity. If we assume that outer space is a false vacuum, with a pressure of 0 Pa, then a true vacuum has a pressure of less than 0 Pa (relatively speaking). Currently, there is a pressure gradient directed away from Earth that is trying to suck the atmosphere off the planet. However, our planet's gravity prevents that from happening. Am I correct in saying that true vacuums are described as being destructive because if outer space became a true vacuum, the new pressure gradient would be too strong for our planet's gravity to resist, thus sucking the atmosphere into space? And, more than that, too strong for the planet's solid material to remain bound together by gravity, thus obliterating Earth?

If this is not the case, why exactly is a true vacuum destructive? (Keep it simple, so that we can update the article for the benefit of the general public.)

Or does this have absolutely nothing to do with the vacuum of space? If so, why is the term "vacuum" used, rather than "state"? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:01, 23 August 2016 (UTC)

The term vacuum is not related to pressure gradients. As explained in "Vacuum metastability event" section (especially boxed quote), if we are living in a false vacuum, then nucleation of a true vacuum would destroy the earth, galaxy, and everything else as a bubble of destruction expands through our universe at light speed forever.
Vacuum is a common technical term in quantum field theory, and in that context it does not invoke the same associations that non-physicists would think of when they hear the word "vacuum" (vacuum cleaners, vacuum chambers, etc.), even though it kinda means the same thing. I added a paragraph to hopefully help address this confusion. --Steve (talk) 13:01, 23 August 2016 (UTC)