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No. 74: Mar-Apr 1991

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Repent! the phase change is coming!

The world as we know it may not end in a nuclear holocaust or even in the greenhouse effect. Rather, suggest M. M. Grone and M. Sher, the universe-as-a-whole may undergo a phase change. Such an event has already happened once and it may again. Approximately 10-10 seconds after the Big Bang, the force laws changed discontinuously as the universe cooled. Some models of the cosmos predict that another such phase change may occur when photons suddenly acquire mass. Grone and Sher have sketched the effects on terrestrial civilization:

"The most dramatic effect would be the elimination of all static electric and magnetic fields over a range greater than 1 cm, and the elimination of all electromagnetic radiation with frequencies smaller than a few hundred gigahertz. We have shown that there would be relatively little impact on atomic structure and on solar radiation. The absence of electrostatic fields would force a redesign of current power plants (to use smaller solenoids); the absence of radio and television waves would force a much greater use of cables. The elimination of solar and geomagnetic fields would have a significant meteorological impact. The potential ly most devastating effect could be on the propagation of neural impulse along motor neurons; it appears that the effects might be small, but they do depend on the precise value of the photon mass."

Crone and Sher conclude that the effect would be devastating to humanity but probably not fatal. (Crone, Mary M., and Sher, Marc; "The Environmental Impact of Vacuum Decay," American Journal of Physics, 59:25, 1991.)

Comment. No TV; now that is fatal!

From Science Frontiers #74, MAR-APR 1991. 1991-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987