Science special: the TYC guide to the Higgs Boson

“For physicists, this is the equivalent of Columbus discovering America” – Professor Themis Bowcock

Science is not TYC’s strong point. So when today’s announcement broke – that scientists have discovered the ‘God particle’  (aka ‘Higgs boson’) that Professor Peter Higgs first proposed held the universe together over 40 years ago – we were more than a little confused.

Peter Higgs wipes a tear from his eye as the findings were announced at CERN in Switzerland today

Happily, we’ve got someone to explain it to us, and we thought we’d share it with you, just in case you were as perplexed as we were.

We don’t usually feature science on the site – like, ever – but with this being one of the most important scientific developments to happen in decades, we thought we’d do a little post about it.

Read on…

Understanding the Higgs Particle

The Higgs Particle – or ‘god particle’ as its sometimes referred to – was first suggested in the 1960s by Peter Higgs. It is not a ‘new’ particle; rather, it is a rather convoluted way (although its the simplest of all the possibilities) of explaining how particles have mass.

The Higgs is also part of a much bigger picture of elementary particles, which includes electrons and tao neutrinos, which themselves were only discovered in 2000. The Higgs, until today, was a prediction of a particle that was required to make the standard model equation work. So all the exquisite details within particle physics was based on a guess – which is why you’ll be seeing lots of relieved physicists today.

Scientists have been working at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research). The Collider is buried 100m below the ground.

How it works (simplified)

For the Higgs model to work, you need to imagine that the entire universe exists in what is known as Higgs field, which is basically, a three-dimensional grid (four-dimensional actually, as it has to exist in time).

For the Higgs field, imagine a room full of people, standing in lots of horizontal rows. All the people are evenly spread a metre from any other person (in all directions).

Imagine someone unpopular walks through the room. No one turns to talk to them and they fly through the room with no interference. They are basically mass-less and would pass through the Higgs field at what is essentially the speed of light.

Now, imagine someone incredibly popular appears and tries to walk through the room. Everyone will rush to talk to them, and his or her passage through the room will be impeded. It’s almost like he/she gets heavy. This is why we all have mass, The Higgs particles surround the electrons in all matter in the universe and give it its mass.

And it’s as simple (chortle…) as that.

As explained by friend of TYC, Michael Clark who is, in his own Stephen Hawking’s words: a ‘physicist, cosmologist and something of a dreamer.’

If you’re still none the wiser, just enjoy this picture of Albert Einstein.


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