Mass matters

Scientists at the CERN research center today announced the discovery of an elementary particle with properties similar to the elusive Higgs boson. This particle is one of the missing links in the standard model of particle physics (much like a ‘periodic table’ for elementary particles).

Why do we need to find the Higgs boson? The Higgs boson is a type of particle that makes up the Higgs field, in which all matter is suspended. All particles interact with the Higgs field – some are not affected, while others gain ‘mass’. As they gain ‘mass’ they coalesce to form ‘matter’ – which is how scientists believe the planets, stars and galaxies were formed after the Big Bang.

The Higgs field is itself very hard to identify, but it is easier to focus on identifying particles, like the Higgs boson, which have a unique signature. If we liken the Higgs field to the air around us, then the Higgs boson is one of the ‘elements’ that makes up air (i.e, oxygen).  Finding one of the elements that make up air can help us validate the existence of air, even though it is not visible to us.

News article 1

News article 2

Standard model of elementary particles. Source: AAAS

You can watch a video of the standard model below. Just like a periodic table, the standard model can be used to predict the properties of  ‘unknown’ elementary particles. This allows scientists to define parameters such as size and charge when looking for these miniscule particles.

and here is a great video by Ph.D comics explaining the significance of the Higgs boson:

and here is a light take on how the Large Hadron Collider works:

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