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Spacetime Dynamics of the Higgs Instability and the Fate of the Early Universe

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A remarkable feature of the Standard Model is that it predicts that, in the absence of new physics, the Higgs field should become unstable at large energies. Though the electroweak vacuum should currently be metastable on timescales that are long compared to the age of the Universe, during an inflationary period, quantum fluctuations could have driven the development of regions of true vacuum at negative energy densities. I will discuss the evolution and spacetime dynamics of unstable Higgs fluctuations, illustrating how they can halt inflation in the regions they develop, and give rise to crunching regions and black holes with unusual properties. By combining this picture from general relativity with a detailed treatment of the stochastic development of such unstable Higgs fluctuations, bounds can be placed on the inflationary energy scale based on the existence of our current Universe.