Higgs boson could be gateway to new era

Referred to as the ‘God particle,’ the Higgs boson is the most sought after discovery in the world of physics – and its existence has been confirmed by physicists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

Scientists announced they have certainly discovered a boson – which is one of two elementary particles that quantum theory tells us makes up the universe. The other particles are fermions such as protons and electrons- known to most as matter.

Fermions acquire mass by passing through the Higgs field – a molasses-like field named after University of Edinburgh physicist Peter Higgs.

The theory is that something had to be holding the matter together, but until now, no one had found concrete evidence that this space molasses made up of boson particles actually exists.

As far as science goes, this is huge news – reinforcing the Standard Model of Physics used to explain how the universe works.

It was dubbed the ‘God particle’, many believe, because without it, the universe would fall apart and we would not exist. But when asked about it, Professor Higgs clarified that the reference actually came from a book on the search for the elusive particle that was originally titled “Goddamn particle” because the boson was proving so difficult to find. The editor, thinking the title could be offensive, changed it to “God particle”.

This isn’t the particle’s first time in the spotlight. In the book and film Angels and Demons, it was the source of antimatter that was being used to blow up the Vatican. It was also rumored to destroy the world in a lawsuit that was thrown out, and photographers have long found beauty and inspiration in its vast size.

Like many other seemingly fundamental scientific discoveries, the potential discovery could lead to unexpected everyday applications in the same way that the discovery of anti-matter led to PET scans being used in medicine. Its discovery will also change how physics is taught in school, as textbooks will now be updated to discuss the final missing piece of a theory that has been taught for decades.

On a larger scale, some scientists claim the discovery could lead to the unlocking of some of the universe’s great mysteries, including dark matter and light-speed travel.

Canada played a role in the discovery, as 150 Canadians took part in the international network of researchers working on the project.

“It’s a huge Canadian success story,” particle physicist Isabel Trigger told the Vancouver Sun. She is one of the team leaders with the TRIUMF particle and nuclear physics lab based in Vancouver. “All of these people have spent 20 years of their lives building something which now has found the particle we were looking for… If it’s not the Higgs boson, it sure looks like the Higgs boson.”

The Canadian research that went into the discovery cost about $100 million over two decades, putting Canada on the map as leaders in scientific progress.

Watch this video to learn exactly what a Higgs Boson is:

Sources: CBC, Globe and Mail, New York Times, LA Times, National Post, Vancouver Sun

Photo ©CERN/Associated Press

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