The Higgs particle, or the Higgs boson, has begun to captivate the world of science, and surprisingly for a complex physics issue has crept into popular culture under the alias of “The God Particle”. But in all seriousness, what is it, and how did it earn such a ridiculous title? To answer this completely you would either need a physics major or an extreme devotion to science, so in an effort to avoid a boring post I will keep it to the basics here.
The Higgs boson is a theoretical type of particle known as an elementary particle, which are the most simplistic known particles and are considered to be the building blocks of the universe. The actions and behaviors of these particles are described through what is referred to in physics as the Standard Model, but when this model was first introduced the math seemed to indicate that these particles had no mass thus requiring further explanations to their behavior. The simplest and most widely accepted theory is that these particles interact with a field in such a way that they produce a phenomenon known as mass. However, for this field to exist, there would need to be a counterpart particle. This field, process, and particle came to be known as the Higgs field, the Higgs mechanism, and the Higgs boson after one of the physicists who pioneered this theory.
So basically, the Higgs boson allows everything to have mass. Pretty important, but not what I would consider to be a “God particle”. This unfortunately inaccurate nickname takes its roots from the book The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question? in which Leon Lederman talks about particle physics. Lederman’s reason behind calling the Higgs boson the “God Particle” was that nothing else is currently taking up so much money or is as key to our current understanding of the universe. This in turn sparked a media frenzy over “The God Particle” and leaves us at where we are today.
So what of this elusive Higgs boson? Is it real or only a theory? Within the last few days the scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland have released a statement that they have found evidence of a particle matching the theorized properties of the Higgs boson. Thus these questions may be answered within the coming weeks or even days. Perhaps we will have something new to be the next mysterious “God Something”. Until then we will just have to wait and see.
Guest Writer, Zach Parker