Friday, July 6, 2012

God Particles for Dummies

Peter Higgs
Sure, I had heard of the Higgs boson - 'God particle' and all that. I had little idea what any of it actually meant, and I figured there were enough things to occupy my attention without taking up physics for fun.

I was under the assumption that if any real news ever broke, I would then give the situation a closer look. That might have been a pretty good strategy if it weren't for the case that when some news actually recently broke, I think most of the people writing about it don't know much more than I. Actually, I'm quite sure they don't.

I just happen to be willing to admit I have no idea what the holy hell a God particle might be unless I check with some reasonable sources and learn more. Those who join me in having no problem acknowledging they do not happen to be employed at a hadron collider but would like more of an understanding of the basics about the Higgs boson, read on.

The Terms

Let's demystify some of the terminology. Following are a few terms commonly tossed around with brief descriptions of their relevance:

Particle: A unit of matter below the size of an atom.

Hadron: A type of subatomic particle.

Large Hadron Collider: Commonly referred to as the LHC, it is the world's largest and strongest particle accelerator. That translates to meaning scientists expect to learn a whole lot about matter within the 17 miles of tunnel some 500+ feet beneath Switzerland where the LHC is located.

CERN: The European Organization for Nuclear Research, established in 1954, located in the suburbs of Geneva, Switzerland, near the French border and home to the Large Hadron Collider.

Peter Higgs: A British award winning theoretical physicist who was a key player in hypothesizing a model in 1964 that later became known as the Higgs field. Essentially, Higgs proposed a field exists that permeates space and gives all particles their mass that come in contact with it.

Boson: Any type of particle that obeys rules of Higgs-Einstein statistics. That is, for practical purposes of understanding, two particles in the same place at the same time.

The Story

CERN control centre
CERN scientists announced they discovered a new particle via the LHC. The characteristics of the particle, they explained, matched the Higgs boson.

Don't you feel more informed already, now that you better understand what those two previous sentences mean? I do!

Somewhat curiously, the announcement came on the Fourth of July and just two days after American scientists reported they were close to proving the existence of the celebrated and highly sought after particle. The Illinois scientists added they had achieved no definitive conclusions.

Peer review, further testing and verifications will of course be forthcoming from CERN and the scientific community. As a matter of fact, some experts suspect they may have landed an even more exotic version of the Higgs boson than was long suspected might exist. If anything is certain, it would be there is much, much more to the standard model than has yet been fully defined – but I guess everyone knew that already.

In lay terms, it would seem the 'God' analogy got worked into the mix due to the 'everywhere' nature of the hypothesized Higgs field combined with the potential influence of the Higgs boson. Some scientists even expressed disappointment such an analogy as the 'God particle' ever gained popularity, suggesting it was sensationalizing what should be the scientific process of further identifying subatomic particles and confirming their properties.

Basically and as I understand it, possibly identifying Higgs boson-like particles suggests there is indeed a Higgs field, in which all matter is afloat, for lack of a better term. It seems some physicists suggest certain particles may easily navigate the field, while other particles may be more restrained. Meanwhile, the Higgs boson comes along and intersects with the field, imparting mass to all the other particles. Let there be light.

So there ya have it. Now, as you go give all that deeper thought and further consider its implications, don't blow the doors off your hadron collider.


  1. Do you know what was the formula ,from where Higgs discovered? if you know that then please tell me here is my E-mail Id (
    Thank You

  2. Hello, Sarbajit Pattnaik -

    No, I do not know. If helpful, you might choose to use a search engine like Google Scholar to learn more. You might also choose to search college websites. Good luck with your research!