The God Particle

The God Particle

If the universe is the answer, what is the question?
They say that nearly 13.75 billion years ago, the Big bang occurred and that explains the existence of the universe. It was in an extremely hot and dense state which expanded rapidly. This rapid expansion caused the Universe to cool and resulted in its present continuously expanding state. It cooled sufficiently to allow energy to be converted into various subatomic particles, including protons, neutrons, and electrons.

We all have known these particles well, but the question to how these particles gain mass still makes it difficult to unravel the mysteries of the universe.
A discovery at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, to some extent confirms the existence of the “God Particle” or the “Higgs Boson particle”. Discovered in 1964 by Peter Ware Higgs, this long-sought particle may complete the standard model of particle physics(the so-far successful theory that explains how fundamental particles interact with the elementary forces of nature) by explaining why objects in our universe have mass—and in so doing, why galaxies, planets, and even humans have any right to exist.

Higgs’s idea was that the universe is bathed in an invisible field similar to a magnetic field. Every particle feels this field—now known as the Higgs field—but to varying degrees.If a particle can move through this field with little or no interaction, there will be no drag, and that particle will have little or no mass. Alternatively, if a particle interacts significantly with the Higgs field, it will have a higher mass. The idea of the Higgs field requires the acceptance of a related particle: the Higgs boson.

The particle came to be known as the God Particle, the term coined by the Nobel Prize winning physicist Leon Lederman. It was said so because of being an important ingredient in the existence of the universe. The composition of the world, mass-energy conversion, the enigma called Big Bang theory, can all be explained through this particle. It is also said that this particle can explain sudden ‘disappearances’ of people in science fiction and mythologies; this can happen when mass is converted to energy. This will help arrive at the Theory of Everything (TOE) or the unification of all energies and forces in the universe.

Many of us don’t know that the great discoveries in particle physics are largely exercises in statistical analysis. Flipping a coin a dozen times will provide a very limited understanding of probability. A run of a million tosses will sharply define the limits of probability. Getting seven heads in ten tosses is not especially noteworthy. Getting seven hundred thousand heads out of a million tosses would reveal something real at work on the coin.

So it goes in particle physics. Small things need lots of samples to paint a complete picture. Instead of flipping coins in the air, the physicists working on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, use two beams of protons traveling in a vacuum at 99.9999% of the speed of light around a 17-mile-long magnetic ring. The two beams are traveling in opposite directions and are magnetically maneuvered to collide within a detector the size of a house. Each experimental run produces hundreds of quadrillions of collisions. Those collisions are individual data points that cumulatively show the presence of the Higgs boson.

In simple words, Higgs boson is supposed to have originated a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang created the universe. Scientists at CERN tried to recreate the same conditions presumed to have existed then and thus identified traces of this never-before-seen particle. Its mass is in the same range as predicted by theory. But still uncertainty will surround this huge discovery until they identify all its properties. However, for all practical purposes, it is the Higgs boson.
This discovery confirms that the Standard Model theory is valid. Other particles predicted by this theory have been confirmed, but the missing Higgs boson was a glaring hole. Now even that seems to be closed. But there are other aspects of sub-atomic physics and of the cosmos that are unexplained, like dark matter (which makes up 25% of the matter in the universe but has never been seen), dark energy (which makes up 70% of matter in the universe but also has never been located), antimatter, supersymmetry (a theory that for every particle there is a heavier twin), etc. With the Higgs boson found, scientists can look at these aspects with more surety.

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