It’s not every day theoretical physics becomes a news sensation.
Indeed, it’s downright odd to hear “The God Particle” being discussed by people in supermarket queues, or exchanging pleasantries on the treadmill at the gym.
“Nice day, isn’t it?”
“Yes, and how about those guys at CERN discovering Higgs Boson? Amazing!”
Everyone, it seems, has become a bit of a particle physicist overnight. Or have they?
“What exactly is Higgs Bottom?” my younger sister asked me yesterday, causing me first to laugh and then to think. I mean, yes, what exactly is it? Because as geeky as I may be, I still had a tough time explaining it to her without furtively pulling up Wikipedia on my phone and hoping she wouldn’t notice.
The first thing that’s striking about Higgs Boson is that we’ve been looking for it for a rather long time. 48 years in fact. So it’s an elusive little sucker.
Another cool fact for nerds is that it’s also linked to a kind of force field (the Higgs field) and is thought to explain how matter actually attains its mass.
Because, you see, most mass in the universe (about 96 percent of it) is actually made up of sinister sounding “dark matter” while only four percent of the universe has mass we can actually explain. “Dark matter,” “Dark energy”, it all sounds more Harry Potter than Higgs Boson.
But for the wizards at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, in Geneva, finding evidence of Higgs Boson is almost the equivalent of winning the 10 million dollar jackpot at a casino – almost impossible, and leaving you with the sense that things may not be all they initially seem.
And then of course there’s the way in which we’ve forced Higgs Boson out of hiding, using the incredibly awesome sounding Large Hadron Collider, equal parts cool and terrifying because it may or may not end up ripping open a black hole in the fabric of our existence, though my physicist friends assure me this is “quite unlikely.” Then again, so was the possibility of finding Higgs Boson.
Two separate groups of physicists are said to have found evidence of the elusive particle with less than a one in 3.5 million chance they got it wrong and were actually seeing something else. Now, I may not be much of a gambler, but I like those odds.
That aside, though, and we still don’t REALLY know what it is, do we?
Except that I’ve discovered this really cute video, with fantastic animation, which helps me to at least scratch the surface of understanding. You’ll like it, take a look:
The Higgs Boson Explained from PHD Comics on Vimeo.
Continue reading on the next page....