Explaining the Higgs Boson
The Standard Model of particle physics proposes a set of elementary particles needed to make up the universe, but doesn’t explain how certain particles have mass. In the 1960s, British physicist Peter Higgs proposed the critical missing piece—the Higgs boson, a particle which makes up the “Higgs field” and gives particles mass. Created when protons are smashed together in a subatomic mess, the Higgs only exists for a trillionth of a second before decaying into a spray of lighter particles, and has existed only in theory—until now. After studying the particle spray patterns of roughly a quadrillion proton collisions, CERN physicists announced today that they’ve found a particle consistent with the properties of the Higgs boson. With a high level of statistical certainty, they reported a particle weighing 125.3 gigaelectronvolts (GeV), which is 133 times heavier than a proton. By combining two data sets, they attained a confidence level at 5-sigma, which signifies 99.9999% accuracy and is the particle physics standard for official discovery. This is definitely a new boson, and the heaviest one ever found—now, we have to determined whether it behaves like the version of the Higgs proposed by the Standard Model, or whether it holds any unexpected twists. It’s hard not to get excited, because this could be one of the biggest scientific discoveries of the century—it could be a huge leap forwards for high-energy physics, helping to explain dark matter, dark energy, and subsequently 96% of the universe. Particle physics party, anyone?
CERN Press Release