Why Higgs boson, the ‘God particle’, is a big deal

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According to a theory developed by Peter Higgs and five other physicists in the early 1960s, particles acquire mass by interacting with a field (the Higgs field) that permeates all of space. Particles such as top quarks that interact strongly with this field have a high mass; those that interact weakly (such as electrons and neutrinos) have low mass. Massless particles such as photons don’t interact with the Higgs field at all. And just as an electromagnetic field has an associated particle (the photon), so does the Higgs field. As predicted in the early 1960s, if experimentalists could ever collide particles together with just the right amount of energy, the Higgs field would essentially spit out its own particle — the Higgs boson.

The Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) was used in one of the experiments used to detect the Higgs boson. The CMS detects protons smashed together with energies of 7 trillion electron volts. / Sky and Telescope

The theory also predicts that the Higgs boson will decay almost instantaneously into a shower of elementary particles. This is what the LHC actually detected. …

For more than a century, physicists have done a remarkable job of seeing patterns and relationships in known particles to predict new particles, and then creating them in laboratories.Here’s just a short list of particles that physicists have successfully predicted: neutrons, positrons, antiprotons, neutrinos, W bosons, Z bosons, gluons, six different types of quarks, and now Higgs bosons. This track record demonstrates the power of the human intellect to probe nature at a deep level.

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