Tag: particle zoo

The Higgs What?

picture of simulated proton collision
Simulated Proton Collision – Wikipedia

Everybody’s talking about the Higgs boson discovery. They are calling it a discovery, but all they have are the tracks. Think Big Foot. When you find Big Foot tracks, you can call the reporters and say that since you saw Big Foot tracks, there is a ninety-nine point nine percent chance you have found Big Foot.

Now, nobody has ever seen a Big Foot, but they keep finding tracks. Nobody has ever produced a real Big Foot, and probably never will. That’s how regular folks like you and me see things.

That’s not how the particle physics world works. You see, you and I don’t live in that kind of world. Regular people cannot sit around inventing stuff all the time and stay out of the asylum. Particle physicists can. The real ones have PhD’s in that mystical subject, and their job is to make up stuff. Good gig if you can get it.

These guys have a whole zoo of particles that they have never seen, and yet they are sure they exist because they have found lots of tracks. This zoo includes such household names like fermions, quarks, neutrinos, muons, bosons, tau, photons, gravitons, leptons, and leotards. Sorry about the leotard thing. Who knows what they will come up with next.

They have particles for everything except they couldn’t figure what gives matter the property of mass. Even though we all know that matter has mass, the really bright guys could never figure out how. The rest of us didn’t know enough to care. There turns out to be some heavy physics involved.

An English physicist named Peter Higgs postulated that a small particle actually gave chunks of  matter the thing we call mass. He said it happened with a field (Higgs Field) by a mechanism called the Higgs Mechanism. Particle physicists built a mathematical model that consisted of nothing but particles, and the Higgs sounded plausible.

Since our intrepid particle trackers had tracks on most other sub-atomic particles, it became more and more important to tie it all together. That’s where the Higgs boson comes in and that’s how it got the name, The God Particle. It really does connect everything in the Standard Model of particle physics.

Now that they have some Higgs tracks, maybe they can all go home, and shut down their multi-billion dollar toy known as the Large Hadron Collider.

Nah, they won’t do that.

Discovering  Higgs tracks will launch a project that will be the next thing to eternal life. More money will be plowed into that concrete tunnel than the gross domestic product of the entire African continent. Now, they can really play with their zoo.