CERN (where the modern Internet was born) has just announced that they’ve discovered a Higgs boson particle. Physics is CERN’s day job and they built the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider to find this one particular particle. The search was both expensive and was feared to possible create black holes on earth. The more reasonable fear was that they wouldn’t find anything at all, but now it seems they have. So what on earth have they found?
The Higgs Field
According to Standard Model physics, elementary particles can’t have any mass. But they do. For measurements to match the theory (or vice versa I guess), scientists posited the existence of something called a Higgs Field. This interacts with particles to give them mass. In the Guardian video above they liken this to pouring sugar across a massless universe, giving particles drag, which gives them mass. Pour some sugar on me, if you know what I’m saying. The non-technical Wikipedia overview is also quite helpful.
So, they run the math again and it checks out AND makes one testable prediction. If there is this sort of Higgs Field then there should be another particle – the Higgs Boson. If you can find this particle, then you can ‘prove’ the theory, tho in effect it really just gives you more interesting questions. So, how to find this particle? Basically smash stuff together (in a controlled manner) and it should pop up. Which is what the Large Hadron Collider does – it spins photons around kilometers of tubes, smashes them together and sees what pops up.
And apparently a Higgs Boson has.
What does this mean? Well, besides sorta validating Standard Model physics, it means that there is some sort of force permeating the universe. Not the force force, the Star Wars one created by living beings. But some sort of thing which takes the universe from pure, massless energy to matter. Which is still pretty trippy on a spiritual level. Science is wonderful.