Five Things You Must Know About the Nobel Prize Winner's Higgs Boson
Analysts said it would happen. Professor
It's been a long time coming. For Peter Ware Higgs, an emeritus (or retired) professor at the University of Edinburgh first told us of this tiny but all-powerful particle way back in 1964. Trouble is, it's taken us a good while to track it down.
It took the world's biggest machine - the
1. It should be called the Goddamn Particle
American physicist Leon Lederman first used the name God Particle in a book; claiming he picked it because the Higgs boson was crucial to understanding the way the
2. We're surrounded by a Higgs treacle
As bizarre as it sounds, physicists reckon the universe is filled with an invisible treacle - known as the Higgs field. Some particles interact with it loads, and it gives them a lot of mass. But others, such as particles of light, don't interact with it at all. In other words, it's this Higgs field that's responsible for giving everything - you, me, goats, planets - mass. A Higgs boson is just one tiny, tiny blob of this treacle.
3. We haven't actually seen one
The Large Hadron Collider can be thought of as a crash test centre for subatomic particles. It's operators - the physicists - send protons around circuits and when they're going fast enough (99.99 per cent the speed of light), they
4. The Higgs idea got off to a wobbly start
Back in 1964, Peter Higgs wrote two scientific papers, each just a couple of pages of A4 paper long. One of them was accepted by the journal Physical Letters and the other was rejected. Another physicist took a gander and suggested a few tweeks. Peter Higgs added a paragraph saying that in certain conditions the Higgs field would give up a particle - and hey presto the Higgs boson was born and the research paper was accepted.
5. Don't believe the hype
Read lots of accounts about what the Higgs boson is and you'll discover that it's the thing that gives mass to everything in the Universe. But it ain't. The Higgs field actually just gives mass to what's known as elementary particles - ones that can't be broken down into smaller chunks. But all stuff - the aforementioned you, me, goats, planets - are actually made up of composite particles like electrons: particles made up of several components. And with these there's another force - known as the strong nuclear force - that gives them mass too. In fact, it gives everything most of its mass.