This could be the way the world ends.

First, a pair of cosmic protons smash together at unimaginable speeds. The tremendous energy of their crash would create a tiny, ephemeral black hole, so small that it would last just a fraction of a second before evaporating.

Where the black hole just was, a bubble of space with entirely different laws of physics than the universe we inhabit would begin to grow, expanding ever-outward at the speed of light. In its wake, atoms would disintegrate, and the universe as we know it would fizzle out of existence.

“If you’re standing nearby when the bubble starts to expand, you don’t see it coming,” says Katie Mack, a physicist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. “If it’s coming at you from below, your feet stop existing before your mind realizes that.”

That horror movie can happen only if the universe has at least one extra dimension, on top of three of space and one of time.

But this isn’t the way the world ends — at least it hasn’t yet.

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