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Physics Matters: Higgs Boson Particle

physics matters higgs boson particle

What is the Higgs boson particle?

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Particle physicists Peter Higgs first theorized about the Higgs boson particle back in 1964 and believed that this could be an elementary particle essential for continuation of research in particle physics. The problem eluded them on how they could prove this elementary particle actually existed. The belief was that there existed throughout the universe a Higgs Field which is essentially an energy field that provides other particles with the properties that we associate with their mass. Mass however cannot be created by the Higgs field as it is contradictory to the physics law of conservation stating that matter and energy cannot be created, instead it is the belief that the Higgs field generates the properties that define how we understand mass today. This is referred to as the Higgs effect which explains the process of how a particle receives mass through the influence of the Higgs boson particles that exist in the Higgs field.

This theory, referred to as the Standard Model, had long been pondered by theoretical physicists until the development of the CERN particle accelerator in mid 2012 in Geneva, Switzerland. Using the Large Hadron Collider scientists were able to positively verify the existence of the once elusive Higgs boson particle which made front page news worldwide. The discovery of the Higgs boson particle helps to explain how the Big Bang occurred 13.7 billion years ago essentially creating our universe out of nothing. Due to its association to the creation of the universe the particle was mislabeled by press as the “God particle” which has frustrated both the scientific community and religious community alike who do not prefer to use this label for Higgs boson.

In order to verify the existence of the Higgs boson it took scientists several months of combing through data created by the Large Hadron Collider where particles were smashed into each other at high rates of speed. It is estimated that only one in a trillion collisions were able to produce on Higgs boson leaving scientists around the world to wonder why this particle is so elusive. In order to fully understand the relevance of Higgs boson it is first essential to grasp the essentials of the Standard Model theory of physics.

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What is the Standard Model of physics?

The Standard Model of physics is a theory which describes elementary particles (fermions or bosons) as well as explaining three of the basic forces of nature. It is a combination of quantum mechanics, special relativity and group theory mathematics which contain Lagrangians and Hamiltonians (equations with the smallest and largest points).

What are fermions?

The theory describes fermions as being the particles we would typically learn about in chemistry or physics such as protons, neutrons and electrons. These particles contain properties such as mass, charge, spin, color charge and hypercharge. It is believed that there exist 12 different types of fermions which include six quarks and six leptons. Protons and neutrons would be considered quarks while electrons would be included in the definition of leptons. It is possible for leptons to exist by themselves however quarks cannot exist in isolation as they are held together by color force.

What are bosons?

Boson particles are believed to be the second type of elementary particles described in the Standard Model of physics. These are believed to all contain an integer spin which allows them the capability to exist in the same time at the same place simultaneously as other boson particles. These particles are divided into two subgroups of gauge bosons and Higgs boson which essential allow the most fundamental forces of nature (strong interaction, electromagnetic force, weak force and gravitational force) to exist. Force is created through the interaction of movement of gauge bosons between fermions with the possible exception of gravity which still eludes physicists to this day.

fermions and bosons

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What is the next step for Higgs boson?

The discovery of this particle generated more questions than answers as is typical in scientific research. Despite the elation of this discovery many scientists point out the fact that they actually prefer their theories to be disproven as although it is comforting to feel right nothing is learned from confirming a theory. There are still many more questions to answer with the two prevalent being what is the dark matter that makes up most of the known universe and why is gravity such a weak force in comparison to the other 3 fundamental forces of nature? Investigations into how Higgs boson behaves and interacts with other particles is currently underway to help enlighten the scientific community with what this discovery may mean for other theories relating to the Standard Model.

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