If you’re reading this, you’re probably curious about the finding of the Higgs Boson particle that was announced yesterday (July 4, 2012). What does the finding mean? What is the Higgs particle? And why is it so important?
Here’s what you need to know (in plain and simple English):
A little bit of background
There’s this theory called The Standard Model which attempts to describe the basic building blocks of the universe. By knowing the building blocks of the universe we would be able to understand the ‘history’ of how the universe developed. The best way to describe it is to say that “The Standard Model is to physics what the theory of evolution is to biology”.
The Standard Model is composed of 12 fundamental particles that are governed by four basic forces. Up to now they had only found 11 of the 12 particles (but with the finding, the Higgs became the 12th and final one). Because we found the final one we can now validate the The Standard Model (aka we can now learn about the very forces that rule the universe and its development!)
But what does the Higgs particle do?
The short answer: The Higgs is thought to solve the mystery of the origin of mass. (Quick refresher: mass is a measure of the amount of matter in an object).
The long answer: After the Big Bang it is believed that the universe was made up of particles racing around at the speed of light without any mass. Some particles didn’t slow down (like light, which is not affected by and does not have any mass), but other particles began to slow down when they started interacting with the Higgs field. Their interaction with the Higgs meant that they would gain mass and eventually form things like stars, galaxies, planets, and humans.
So why is it important?
Well basically, without the Higgs field you wouldn’t exist. So it’s pretty cool that we found it.
jk- Actually we’re over 99.9% sure that we’ve made the discovery, but because the finding is so new scientists can only say they’ve “discovered something which is consistent with [the] Higgs”, as supposed by physicist John Ellis.