Well there was a spectacular misfire today as all the hype surrounding the announcement by CERN, expected by many to offer clear evidence of the discovery of the Higgs Boson ended up being a bit of a damp fuse. But why all the fuss and what is the Higgs Boson anyway?
Well I don’t claim to understand it all myself. My science qualifications ended at GCSE nearly half a lifetime ago so I am by no means the best person to answer that. However, fear not because I have amalgamated all of today’s hype and facts to come up with an explanation that I hope you’ll be happy with. Here it goes:
I am sure you’ve heard of cells right? They are the things that hold your body together at a cellular level and stop you being little more than genetic goo. On a basic level these cells are made up of different proteins that are held together by atoms on an atomic level. Atoms such as Hydrogen, Carbon and Oxygen are the fundamental building blocks of which all compounds such as water and carbon dioxide are made. These are formed into the Periodic Table that is arranged by breaking down these atoms further into protons, neutrons and electrons and counting the number of protons in that atom. These are subatomic particles and this is where our understanding of physics gets a little bit mental.
There are many other subatomic particles that do not appear to behave rationally in the logical way that we would expect. In other words it’s like a Slayer mosh pit. It’s chaos. Scientists at CERN are trying to work out why these subatomic particles do these things and what gives them (and therefore everything else) mass (or to someone on Earth I suppose you could substitute this for ‘weight’ but only in the very loosest sense). That’s where the Higgs Boson comes into play.
The Higgs Boson is thought to come from kind of field (the Higgs Field) a little bit like a magnetic field that provides other particles with mass. Should the Higgs Boson be proven to exist then it ties up a lot of loose ends in the current theories and helps us get closer to understanding why we and everything else are actually here. But how are they searching for it and how do they find it? Well that’s what the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is for.
When it first fired up in anger many were worried that it might cause the Earth to fall into a Black Hole, of course it was actually riddled with technical faults but that’s by the by. It works by accelerating atoms and particles and smashing them together at incredibly high speed. This causes a tiny explosion that sensitive instruments can analyse and find out what happened. It’s a bit like air crash investigators but without all the dead bodies. CERN are running several experiments and one of these is trying to find evidence for the Higgs Boson.
Ok so now you know what the Higgs Boson is you are still probably wondering what all the fuss was about right? Well a lot of people, myself included were hoping that today CERN would announce clear evidence that the Higgs Boson exists. Basically should the Higgs Boson be found it would mean that scientists and geeks around the world would wet their pants with excitement because it signals a new age in our understanding of our Universe and means we are nudging ever closer to a Unified Theory of Everything.
Of course that means it may also eventually lead to some much cooler discoveries that could propel inventions such as anti-gravity boots, teleportation devices and maybe, just maybe a way a way to destroy the X-Factor once and for all. Imagine that? But before you get too excited about those prospects hold back the bubbly because they don’t have enough data to confirm it has been found yet. Searching for the Higgs Boson is like pin pointing Bin Laden. They know roughly where to look but they need more data to confirm it before they send in the SEALS, or in this case those guys in white coats at CERN.
So for now we have to wait with baited breath to see what 2012 will bring but for now you can read more here:
2 thoughts on “It’s Physics Jim But Not As We Know It? ~ or ~ the Higgs Boson as a layman understands it”
This stuff fascinates me and your explanation was terrific and easy for a non-science person to understand. Found you by way of your comment on Tinkerbelle’s blog.
Very well written! I’ll be back to check out more of what you have to say.
Ha ha, thanks. I’ve learned more from reading Focus and New Scientist magazines than I ever did at school!
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