Many Americans will mark the country’s birthday today, but physicists and science nerds will also celebrate the tenth anniversary of the discovery of the Higgs Boson – also known as the ‘God Particle’ – on July 4.
You may not be familiar with physicist Peter Higgs, who first predicted the existence of the new particle in the 1960s and theorized that we are surrounded by an ocean of quantum information known as the Higgs Field, but his Nobel Prize-winning discovery makes everything else in our universe possible.
The existence of the Higgs Boson is one reason why everything we see, including ourselves, all planets and stars, has mass and exists – hence why it was called the ‘God Particle.’
The particle that Higgs and fellow physicists hypothesized in 1964 could only gain mass by interacting with a field that permeates the entire universe. Meaning that if the field did not exist, the particles would simply float freely and move at the speed of light.
The discovery of the Higgs Boson in July 2012 forms the basis for the existence of all elementary particles in our universe. Pictured above is a visualization of an event recorded at the CMS detector at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. It shows the characteristics expected from the decay of the SM Higgs Boson to a pair of photons
Unlike a lot of other notable discoveries, the Higgs Boson can’t simply be ‘found’ in a traditional sense – it must be created. Once it’s created, evidence of its decay is looked for in data collected at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.
At the world’s largest particle accelerator – where protons are smashed together near the speed of light in a vast, racetrack-like 27-kilometer tunnel that sits 300 feet underground in at the border of France and Switzerland – scientists knew that they had found evidence of its decay in 2012.
Many technologies were advanced – in healthcare, industry and computing – in the decade since the Higgs Boson was first observed.
Since the announcement of its discovery on July 4, 2012, physicists have been analyzing how the Higgs Boson interacts with other particles in order to see if it lines up with what’s known as the Standard Model of physics.
The existence of the Higgs Boson, which is a subatomic particle that is the carrier particle for the Higgs Field, was first proposed by British physicist Peter Higgs in 1964. Pictured above is Higgs, who received a Nobel Prize in physics for proposing the existence of the Higgs Boson, at CERN in July 2012
THE HIGGS BOSON CARRIES MASS AND IS A FUNDAMENTAL PART OF THE STANDARD MODEL OF PARTICLE PHYSICS
The Higgs boson is an elementary particle – one of the building blocks of the universe according to the Standard Model of particle physics.
It was named after physicist Peter Higgs as part of a mechanism that explains why particles have mass.
According to the Standard Model our universe is made of 12 matter particles – including six quarks and six leptons.
It also has four forces – gravity, electromagnetism, strong and weak.
Each force has a corresponding carrier particle known as a boson that acts on the matter.
The theory went that the Higgs boson was responsible for transferring mass.
It was first proposed in 1964 and wasn’t discovered until 2012 – during a run of the Large Hadron Collider.
The discovery was significant as if it had been shown not to exist then it would have meant tearing up the Standard Model and going back to the drawing board.
The Standard Model is a guiding theory that accounts for three of the four main forces of the universe – electromagnetism, the weak force and the strong force – but it excludes gravity.
There are other aspects of our universe, such as dark matter and dark energy, that are not yet explained by the standard model.
Scientists have been studying how the Higgs Boson interacts with other particles and what these so-called ‘couplings’ can produce – this was achieved by conducting many experiments and analyzing a lot of data.
By 2018, scientists had determined that 58 percent of Higgs bosons decay into b quarks, also known as beauty or bottom quarks.
Although CERN has been the center of the action when it comes to the Higgs Boson, many people aren’t aware that at one point the United States could have been home to what would have been the largest ever particle accelerator in the world – called the Tevatron.
Planned in the 1980s for a site deep beneath Waxahachie, Texas, that particle accelerator would have been 87 kilometers long with the ability to slam protons together at higher energy levels than are currently possible at CERN.
However, a combination of bureaucratic unease with the project’s cost and discomfort among scientists and religious-minded people alike over the phrase ‘God Particle’ led to the project being canceled in 1993.
CERN, which was founded on September 29, 1954, is the focal point of a community of 10,000 scientists from all over the world and it’s also the birthplace of the World Wide Web. It has 23 member states, however the US only has observer status at CERN – which means it isn’t part of CERN’s governing council that makes important decisions about its science.
In 2012, Higgs and his collaborator Francois Englert won the Nobel Prize for the ‘theoretic discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles.’
There are many questions that scientists still hope to answer in the coming years and decades at CERN.
What can the Higgs Boson tell us about the earliest moments of our universe?
Could dark matter and dark matter, which make up 68 and 27 percent of the universe respectively, be found from interactions with the Higgs Boson?
Is it possible to open microscopic black holes and could energy one day be pulled through them?
Can we uncover more information about b or beauty quarks and what their significance is for the singularity?
What could we learn about M-theory, which posits that instead of just three dimension of space plus time, there could in fact be at least 11 dimensions composed not of the particles we know but of teeny vibrating strings that all interact with each other.
The launch of the Large Hadron Collider’s Run 3 will be broadcast live on all of CERN’s social media channels starting at 4 pm on Tuesday, July 5.
The Higgs Field is best thought of as a field of energy or information that permeates everything around us. Pictured above is an artistic view of that field released by CERN
Physicist Peter Higgs first posited the existence of the Higgs Field and the Higgs Boson in 1964. Pictured above is the scientific paper in which he laid out that case
CERN is one of the largest scientific institutions in the world, home to over 2,000 scientists working on many physics projects. Pictured above is a chain of LHC dipole magnets inside a tunnel at the end of the second long shutdown, when the facility at CERN was updated for a few years so that protons could be slammed together at much higher energy ranges when run 3 begins in July
Future experiments at CERN will attempt to unravel mysteries such as dark matter and dark energy. Pictured above is a chain of dipole magnets inside a tunnel at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN