The Higgs Boson For The Rest Of Us

So, scientists have discovered the Higgs Boson to a 5-Sigma level of uncertainty! Scientists have openly wept and given the announcement standing ovations. It’s a great moment for science and for the idea of discovery as a whole, especially given the omnishambles we’re used to currently seeing on the news.

But here’s the thing: What is the Higgs Boson?

I’m not sure. See, I’ve got a degree in history and English. I’m proud of that, but it doesn’t help you understand the fundamental properties of the universe. Now, if I don’t know about something I’ll normally give Wikipedia a look, but this is what it said about Higgs:

The Higgs boson is a hypothetical elementary particle predicted by the Standard Model (SM) of particle physics. It belongs to a class of particles known as bosons, characterized by an integer value of their spin quantum number. The Higgs field is a quantum field that fills all of space, and explains why fundamental particles (or elementary particles) such as quarks and electrons have mass. The Higgs boson is an excitation of the Higgs field above its ground state.

Which is fine as it goes, but I’m not sure it helps the layman much. Fortunately, the Guardian gives us the simplified version:

The Higgs Boson explained with sugar and ping-pong balls, which is about my level.

The New Scientist also does a good job of explaining it, although without props.

All of which goes to show the importance of good science journalism that can engage a general as well as a specialist audience. The findings of science belong to the world and we should celebrate those who can communicate difficult concepts in schools, on TV and in the wider public sphere.

So congratulations, and thank you.


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