Photo: Visual Higgs Boson sculpture by Kai Schulte. Wilson Hall art gallery. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), Batavia, IL.
Unless you’re living under a rock, you must have heard of the announcement CERN made last week in Geneva about finding a particle Higgs Boson also known as ‘God Particle’.
Higgs Boson is an elementary particle of Higgs Field. Kind of like how H2O is elementary unit that makes up all the water in the swimming pool.
Higgs Field permeates all of the Universe. It exists everywhere. When particles ‘interact’ with this field, they get mass. The more a particle interacts with the Higgs Field, they heavier it is.
Interaction with a field can be visualized if you imagine the field to be water. It is harder to move in water as compared to air because water slows you down. Higgs Field does just that.
The more a particle interacts with the Higgs Field, the harder it is to move. And remember from High School Physics class, heavier things are harder to move. That gives the particle its mass. Particles make us and everything around us.
There are two kinds of fundamental particles, fermions and bosons. In 1964, Peter Higgs, English Physicist, hypothesized the existence of the Boson for Higgs Field after his paper was rejected to be published by a journal. Hence, it was named Higgs Boson.
The name God Particle comes from a book of the same name by Nobel Laureate Leon Lederman. The term was coined because the particle is “so central to the state of physics today, so crucial to our final understanding of the structure of matter, yet so elusive”.
What people at CERN have found is a particle that looks awfully a lot like Higgs Boson, they do not know yet if it is THE Higgs Boson they were looking for or it is another different kind of Higgs Boson of a Higgs Field that works in a different way from what we are anticipating.
The quest to find Higgs Boson is about 50 years old, the analogy I can find to explain this quest in layman’s terms is, your neighbor has asked you to find her cat in your house but has not provided a picture of it.
After searching the entire house, you find a cat but your neighbor isn’t there to identify it. Now, you have a cat but you don’t know if it is the cat she had asked for and investigating further into the case to land upon a conclusion.
The reason we needed something like Higgs Field is because some of the fundamental particles are absolutely identical, in every respect except their mass. The differences in their masses are so huge that some of them have a mass hundreds of thousand times of others. We needed Higgs Field to explain this.
In fact, they have a size smaller than the smallest measurement we can make and for your information, we can measure distances smaller than 10-thousand-lakh-croreth part of a millimeter!