Don’t understand the Higgs boson? Watch the best animated explanation video I’ve seen so far on the Higgs:
- The Higgs Boson is important because it is the (until recently) undiscoverd particle that under the Standard Model of Particle Physics is expected to give mass to other particles. Mass is just a property of matter, like a charge. Mass is a gravitational “charge.”
- The theory is that everything, everywhere is filled with something called the Higgs field. The reason why particles have mass is because while they propagate, they are swimming in this “cosmic molasses,” and this interaction gives them inertia. (Not all particles interact with the field. Photons and neutrinos, for example, don’t and have no mass.)
- In order to actually verify this model, we need to produce an excitation of the field. This quantum excitation is what we call the Higgs boson.
- So that’s why we built the Large Hadron Collider, to create lots and lots of particle collisions and analyze the data. That little bump on the graph, which lasted only a fraction of a second, is what they think is the elusive particle, hopefully to be confirmed as the Higgs Boson.
There’s a great Reddit discussion going on about the discovery for the more technically-inclined:
If it’s really a Higgs, then we need to solve the Hierarchy problem or abandon the idea of naturalness. The problem is that the Higgs is “unaturally light”, since quantum corrections would “naturally” make the Higgs mass as big as the Planck scale (1019 GeV compared to the 126) and to make it light we need a an arbitrary cancellation that is heavily fine-tuned. The best candidates were supersymmetry and large extra dimensions, but it seems that both are very unlikely now.
If it’s not a Higgs, then we probably will see more signals in the future, and the greatest theoretical challenge will be to figure out what exactly it is!