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I want to know if theoretically a false vacuum collapse/decay could lead to a new false vacuum state - a state that is (presumably more) metastable but not a true vacuum state.

I assume that if this were possible then the new false state would still have the potential to further decay to a true vacuum at some future point.

My current understanding of this subject comes from the wikipedia article on false vacuum decay https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_vacuum_decay and this article on Space.com https://www.space.com/universe-end-false-vacuum-decay These articles reach the cusp of my capacity to understand so I have been unable to pursue my research further (and hopefully offer an idea of how in depth an answer I require and will understand)

Hopefully my question makes sense, I haven't studied science since the 90s so apologies for any errors in terminology.

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There's no obvious reason why this should not happen. Indeed my early toy model for vacuum decay has exactly this feature.

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As an analogy, consider the nuclear decays of heavy elements. The transuranic nuclei exist long enough to be considered metastable, but eventually undergo a sequence of alpha and beta decays to different states. One of these daughter states, uranium, has a lifetime comparable to the age of the Earth and can therefore become concentrated in ores like the stable elements. But uranium is also only metastable, and eventually undergoes another sequence of decays, ending with lead.

If I were an atomic physicist, I might be able to give you an example of a fluorescent atom or molecule with multiple long-lived intermediate states in its cascade of decays to its eventual lowest-energy equilibrium.

If the potential surface for the vacuum has multiple local minima, it could likewise pass through a series of metastable states.

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Yes. The vacuum can decay from one metastable state to another metastable state with a lower energy.

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I feel that the use of the term "false" vacuum implies some sort of potential instability and allows all sorts of speculation.

Consider a different case of collapse, which causes lots of speculation, that of the collapse inside the event horizon of a black hole.

The most commonly discussed black hole is the non rotating or Schwarzschild black hole which results in a singularity that is a geometric point. which is clearly ridiculous and something must happen to prevent this.

The answer of course is angular momentum even the tiniest amount of angular momentum will result in the final state becoming a Kerr black hole with a theoretical ring singularity as its target this prevents the true point singularity from forming and gives far more degrees of freedom and also slows down the collapse in its final state because of the local change in the inverse square law around the singularity to a simple inverse law.

This could well be what bit like what your "false" vacuum looks like in fact it is a true and stable avoidance of an impossibility

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