The ‘God Particle’: What The Higgs Boson Means To You

Physics is the study of matter and its motion through spacetime. Physicists have learned that the universe is composed of particles of many types. Some of these particles are associated with matter, while others are associated with energy. The Higgs Boson is said to be the “God particle,” in that it helps to transform energy into matter.

The World of Particles
Particle theory deals with the world of the minute particles that make up matter. Though most people have learned about the protons, neutrons and electrons, many more particles exist that are largely unseen. Scientists do know how to manipulate these particles to see their effects. Some particles are charged, have direction and possess other properties that cause them to create particular effects in matter. Research has shown that particles can broken down into smaller and smaller elementary units. Scientists have organized these particles in a system called the Standard Model, which describes 17 species of elementary particles, as well as their corresponding anti-matter particles.

What Are Bosons?
Particles are classified as either “elementary” or “composite,” depending whether can be broken down into smaller units. Bosons and fermions are elementary particles in that they cannot be broken down further. Bosons are associated with energy, in contrast with fermions that are generally associated with matter. These two particles serve different functions, but must work together to create what we know as matter. The boson was named after Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose.

The Higgs Boson
The Higgs boson was named for British physicist, Peter Higgs, who proposed the new particle in 1964. The Higgs boson is one of the largest particles, but it exists for only a few seconds and is extremely hard to detect. To put it simply, this particle produces a Higgs field that is described as a molasses-like pool that sticks to massless particles traveling through it. The massless particles then gain mass and can be incorporated into the natural world that we function in every day.

The Search For Higgs Boson
Since Higgs and other physicists proposed the God particle in the 1960s, researchers have been attempting to find this particle. The challenge lies in the particle’s origins. The Higgs boson only existed for a millionth of a millionth of a second after the Big Bang event 14 billion years ago. To re-create it, scientists must recreate the extraordinarily high-energy states that existed at that time. To do this, they utilize a particle supercollider, a long tube through which particles are hurled to collide against each other in order to measure their effects. Few colliders with enough power to produce the Higgs boson exist. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research, on the border between France and Switzerland is one place where this kind of research can be done.

Higgs Boson Found?
In June of 2012, researchers in Geneva announced to the media that they had found a particle with characteristics very similar to those expected from the Higgs boson. It is the heaviest boson particle that has ever been found, but scientists say it is too soon to label it as the Higgs boson. Much more study must be done on the particle to be sure if it is, in fact, the proposed particle or something new and entirely different.

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