Before, I went to my brother and I said to him: “They’ve catched the Higgs Boson!”
“What’s the Higgs boson?” He said.
I’ll try to explain…
The Standard Model is the theoretical model that describes everything that’s observed in the world of particle physics. We know there are twelve particles and four forces, and the Standard Model is our best understanding of how these particles and three of the forces are related. It was developed in the 70s, an nevertheless its effectiveness in describing and predicting a wide variety of phenomena, one of its essential components, a particle called Higgs boson, was, yet to be found in an experiment.
For more than three decades physicist have hunted for the Higgs boson. It wasn’t just for an obsession to have everything in its place: without the Higgs physicists could not explain how particles aquired mass.
In fact, the Higgs is responsible for the structure of the universe as we know it. It’s the Higgs that makes physical reality the way it is, with atoms, chemical reactions and life. No Higgs, no molecules. No planets. No people.
Strictly speaking, it’s better to say that without the Higgs, something even more exotic would have to do its job. That job, in physics speak, is “electroweak symmetry breaking.” In the universe’s earliest picoseconds, electromagnetism was a component of a more primordial “electroweak” force, incorporating what’s now called the weak force (known for its role in radioactivity). Equations describing the electroweak force are symmetric — that is, they describe electromagnetism and the weak force as equals. But somehow, the weak force split from electromagnetism. In other words, this mathematical symmetry between electro- and weak forces was “broken.”
Symmetry in nature’s laws is not optional; it ensures that the laws work the same for everybody, no matter where they are or how they move. But real life can get messy if something disrupts the symmetry. That’s what the Higgs does: It puts the universe on course to create reality’s complexities. (Nature’s Secrets Foretold by Tom Siegried)
If you don’t get it (I’m sure I don’t), try to watch this and this and read this and this, but trust me, the slipperest particle of physics is really important.
Today at CERN it was announced that a new particles was discovered, and that this particle is probably the Higgs.
The Higgs is very hard to detect because it doesn’t live long, it’s very fast in decaying in a burst of energy and other particles, so physicists need to smash other particles at incredibly high energies using some of the most complex machines ever built and look at the collisions. The collisions give you some tiny clues, but you need a lot of collisions to be sure.
How confident physicist are of today’s discovery? They see a strong signal between 125 and 126 GeV at about the 5 sigma level, that means “they can claim a 99.9999% confidence this signal is real!”
Sure, right now physicists are saying: “It’s a particle, it’s definetely a particle, but we don’t know for certain if it’s the Higgs.” Yet, it really looks like the Higgs. Someone says it’s a bit light, but the general feeling you get from the reactions to this discovery is that something huge is happened.
Brian Cox says it’s “without any doubt one of the biggest scientific discoveries of all time” and Themis Bowcock tells it’s a “giant leap for humankind” and Rolf Heuer says that: “We have reached a milestone in our understanding of nature”.
And now what? “We’re on the frontier now, we’re on the edge of a new exploration.”
“There’s so much other stuff we really don’t understand at all, and in that respect, the LHC is just at the beginning of trying to understand what we don’t know in the universe”