'Higgs Boson Particle' Explained
[Editor: Over summer, the scientific world was rocked with the discovery of an invisible particle that lends matter mass. We bring back an article from summer written by one of our Young Editors]
Why do objects fall to the ground?
A: Gravitation ﬁeld
Why do charged particles move towards or away from each other?
A: Electromagnetic ﬁeld
Why do objects have mass?
This is still a mystery, for which scientists are trying to ﬁnd an answer.
The Mass Mystery
An ant has less mass than a truck. Thatʼs why, it is easier to kick an ant heading towards you, than a truck. The truck is able to resist the change in motion better than the ant, because it has a greater mass and inertia. Isaac Newton was the one who ﬁrst described this, but he had no explanation of why this happens.
In the 1960s, Peter Higgs, a British physicist, suggested that mass might be a result of a force ﬁeld spread all over space, just like weight is a result of the gravitational ﬁeld. This is called Higgs ﬁeld. The ant was kicked away, because the force used to kick it was more than the force of the Higgs ﬁeld. However, the truck refused to change its motion as the force of the Higgs ﬁeld was more powerful that the kick force.
Higgs Boson Explained
It is said that the Higgs ﬁeld is made up of very tiny particles, called Higgs bosons. If they ever existed, they can only be found at very high temperatures, and conditions that existed during the Big Bang period.
Check out the video (to the right) for an interesting explanation of the Higgs boson! In this example, the popular person has, in a sense, acquired mass due to the "field" of fans, with each fan acting like a single Higgs boson.
What does this have to do with the atomic world? In a simplistic model, atoms are made up of protons and neutrons in the nucleus with electrons revolving around it. Scientists believe that at very high temperatures, these protons and neutrons melt into a soup of quarks and gluons -- the smallest sub-atomic particles, that float around freely. The Higgs boson is the 'invisible' particle that binds these quarks and gluons together to form protons and neutrons. Scientists believe this is how particles acquire mass.
An interesting trivia
The particle, which came to be known in the scientific world as the 'God particle', was named by publishers of a book written by Leon Lederman, a leading researcher in the field. Frustrated with the scientific community's inability to explain particles and mass, Lederman had used a controversial title. The editors shortened the title to 'god particle' and the name has since stuck.
In Part 2 here, we look at why scientists excited about the recent discovery and what is brewing in tunnels underneath Europe?