Monthly Archives: July 2012

What Really is this Higgs Boson

It’s all over the news  – Scientist at CERN are 99.9% certain that this elusive God Particle truly exist. But, I’m still trying to make some sense of what it really is. Is it a particle? Is it a field? Does it have mass? Does it occupy space? How is it related to the Big Bang?

I’ve been surfing the net trying to find some answers and here’s a list of my favourite picks:

From National Geographic:
The long-sought particle may complete the standard model of physics by explaining why objects in our universe have mass—and in so doing, why galaxies, planets, and even humans have any right to exist.

From BBC:
The Higgs boson, proposed by Peter Higgs in 1964, is if it exists what gives matter mass. It has also been named the name God particle by American physicist Leon Lederman. “He wanted to refer to it as that ‘goddamn particle’ and his editor wouldn’t let him,” Higgs told the Guardian. So “God particle” it was.

From the (once boy genius) physicist’s, Stephen Wolfram’s blog:
At some level I’m actually a little disappointed. I’ve made no secret—even to Peter Higgs—that I’ve never especially liked the Higgs mechanism. It’s always seemed like a hack. And I’ve always hoped that in the end there’d be something more elegant and deep responsible for something as fundamental as the masses of particles. But it appears that nature is just picking what seems like a pedestrian solution to the problem: the Higgs mechanism in the Standard Model.

From the Wall Street Journal:
The press has dubbed the Higgs boson the “God particle,” a nickname that makes many physicists cringe. But there is some logic to it. According to the Bible, God set the universe into motion as he proclaimed “Let there be light!” In physics, the universe started off with a cosmic explosion, the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago, which sent the stars and galaxies hurtling in all directions. But the key question is left unanswered: Why did it bang? The big-bang theory says nothing about how and why it banged in the first place.

To put it another way, what was the match that set off the initial cosmic explosion? What put the “bang” in the Big Bang? In quantum physics, it was a Higgs-like particle that sparked the cosmic explosion. In other words, everything we see around us, including galaxies, stars, planets and us, owes its existence to the Higgs boson.

The Higgs boson also answers another profound physical question. Why is the universe so unsymmetrical and broken? When you calculate the masses of the subatomic particles like the electron, proton, neutrino or neutron, at first they seem almost random, displaying no rhyme or reason at all.

The latest thinking is that, just before the Big Bang, the universe was very tiny but also perfectly symmetrical. All the masses of the particles were the same, i.e. zero. But the presence of Higgs-like particles shattered this perfect symmetry. Once the symmetry was broken, the particles were free to assume the various masses we see today.

Despite having read these articles, whatever I’ve gathered thus far still looks like bits of a puzzle to me…and I’ve got a long way to go to piece them all together, to finally uncover what the Higgs Boson really is. So let me know if you have any other ideas of your own!

Categories: Physics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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