Wednesday, July 4, 2012

HIGGS BOSON (most likely) FOUND

They've made the announcement. It appears that the elusive Higgs boson particle has finally been found (OH MY GOD THIS IS AWESOME NEWS).

This is critical. This is a particle that physicists knew must exist, but no one could seem to actual observe it in any way.

Thanks to the Large Hadron Collider and a dedicated team of scientists working for years on this project, they can say with pretty much 100% certainty that they've found what they've been looking for. But what exactly is that? What is a boson, anyway?

To my understanding, bosons are particles that essentially account for all the forces we know, by interacting with each other and other particles, known as fermions. In the case of the Higgs boson, it can be thought of as the reason other particles have mass. That's a pretty important role to play in the universe, so it's obvious why the physicists on the hunt were so driven to find this particle.

Its existence was predicted nearly 50 years ago, and in that time many other particles of the "Standard Model" have been found and confirmed. The Higgs boson, however, held out. This was ridiculously frustrating, because the Standard Model depended on it (see image above).

So how do they know they found it? Well, by smashing protons together in the Large Hadron Collider, scientists observed what particles popped around after each collision, and did their best to measure them. And two teams, working independently to do such tests, have recently found a particle around 125 gigaelectronvolts in weight...which is just about exactly what the Higgs boson was predicted to weigh, and nothing else. Holy cow. SO COOL.

Major congratulations to all teams involved in this epic discovery. This is a monumental day for physics, and therefore a monumental day for everything in existence.

Perhaps my physics friend Andy would care to weigh in on this discovery in a future post, and his take on how this sneaky particle finally managed to be revealed...

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