Five Things You Must Know About Higgs Boson

. 7/5/12

What's the Higgs Boson particle? The universe is made of 12 fundamental particles and 4 fundamental forces. This is called the Standard Model of Physics. One more particle was predicted by Higgs, Brout and Englert in 1964. It explained the most important property of all matter - mass, and was called the Higgs boson (bosons are force-carrying particles named after Satyen Bose). The Higgs boson was confi rmed on Wednesday, half a century after the search began.

How did Higgs Boson get to be called the 'God particle'? Nobel winning physicist Leon Lederman unwittingly coined it. Out of frustration, he wanted to refer to the Higgs boson as the 'goddamn particle' but his editor didn't allow that. Higgs has distanced himself from the name saying: "I find it embarrassing. Although I'm not a believer, it is the kind of misuse of terminology that may offend some".

How did the large hadron collider (LHC) find it? Higgs boson is supposed to have originated a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang created the universe. Scientists tried to recreate the same conditions presumed to have existed then by making very high-speed protons collide with each other inside the LHC. Tracking millions of collisions occurring in seconds, they identified traces of a never-before-seen particle. Its mass is in the same range as predicted by theory: it is almost certain this is the Higgs boson

Why can't scientists confirm the discovery with certainty? They are being rigorous - as scientists should be. They say on one count they've found a particle that fits the predicted Higgs boson range of mass. But they have yet to completely identify its other properties. They've to explain all current observations, including the slightly higher than expected energy and absence of some other particles. That will take time. However, for all practical purposes, it is the Higgs boson.

So, what does it mean for science? The discovery confirms the Standard Model theory is valid. Other particles predicted by this theory have been confi rmed, but the missing Higgs boson was a glaring hole. Now that's closed. But there are other aspects of sub-atomic physics and of the cosmos that are unexplained, like dark matter (which makes up 25% of the matter in the universe but has never been seen), dark energy (which makes up 70% of matter in the universe but also has never been located), antimatter, supersymmetry (a theory that for every particle there is a heavier twin), etc. With the Higgs boson found, scientists can look at these aspects with more surety. Also, the most well-known force in the universe -gravitation - is still not fully explained. Such issues are still to be cleared.

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