Document Type




Journal Title

Physical Review D

Pub Date







If the Standard Model (SM) is valid up to extremely high energy scales, then the Higgs potential becomes unstable at approximately 10(11) GeV. However, calculations of the lifetime of the SM vacuum have shown that it vastly exceeds the age of the Universe. It was pointed out by two of us (V.B., E.M.) that these calculations are extremely sensitive to effects from Planck scale higher-dimensional operators and, without knowledge of these operators, firm conclusions about the lifetime of the SM vacuum cannot be drawn. The previous paper used analytical approximations to the potential and, except for Higgs contributions, ignored loop corrections to the bounce action. In this work, we do not rely on any analytical approximations and consider all contributions to the bounce action, confirming the earlier result. It is surprising that the Planck scale operators can have such a large effect when the instability is at 10(11) GeV. There are two reasons for the size of this effect. In typical tunneling calculations, the value of the field at the center of the critical bubble is much larger than the point of the instability; in the SM case, this turns out to be numerically within an order of magnitude of the Planck scale. In addition, tunneling is an inherently nonperturbative phenomenon and may not be as strongly suppressed by inverse powers of the Planck scale. We include effective Phi(6) and Phi(8) Planck-scale operators and show that they can have an enormous effect on the tunneling rate.