Higgs proposed that atoms get their mass from an invisible field spread across the entire universe.

Prof Higgs’ suggestion - Comment on 2011 December 24

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2011 December 24
Prof Higgs suggested that an invisible field lying across the entire cosmos interacts with the tiny particles that make up atoms to give them weight and prevent them from zipping around space at the speed of light. Read more:

Here some more snippets about the Higgs boson:

 

Prof Higgs suggested that an invisible field lying across the entire cosmos interacts with the tiny particles that make up atoms to give them weight and prevent them from zipping around space at the speed of light.

The Higgs boson is the signature evidence of the theory - an unstable particle created moments after the big bang before decaying into smaller particles which form the building blocks of the universe.

To find it, researchers attempted to create a version of the big bang by firing beams of protons into one another through the LHC, a 17-mile ring based deep underneath the Swiss-French border.

Although Higgs boson particles would decay moments after being created as the beams collide, spikes in the researchers' data suggest that they did temporarily exist.

The particles racing around the LHC’s 17-mile track are travelling at approximately 99.9999991 per cent of the speed of light. When they collide, it recreates the conditions a millionth of a second after the Big Bang. Monitoring the results in the first place is something of a technical triumph; detecting forms of matter never previously glimpsed is something it is best to be completely sure about.

The Higgs boson matters because it is the missing piece in the jigsaw, the particle whose existence means that our models of the universe make sense. To that end, yesterday (12th December 2011) was never going to be a Eureka moment, even if the Higgs’s existence were declared certain, rather than overwhelmingly likely. The closest equivalent is Sir Arthur Eddington’s observation of a solar eclipse in May 1919, which confirmed Einstein’s theories - and provided reassurance that physicists had not been barking up entirely the wrong tree.

Of course, by itself, the Higgs solves little. There are still huge gaps in our understanding, ranging from the nature of the dark matter and dark energy that make up the bulk of the universe, to the existence of other dimensions. Yet, however hard it is to wrap our heads around such ideas, we should find them wonderfully reassuring. It turns out that however much we know, there is so much more to discover - and most of it stranger than anything we could ever have imagined.

After 30 years in the shadow of biology, physics is in the news as never before. One of life’s big questions - why there is any "stuff"¯ in the universe at all - may be on the verge of being solved.

The Higgs boson is a subatomic particle, the existence of which was proposed by the British physicist Peter Higgs in the Sixties. It is thought to endow everything in the universe with mass. Although Sir Isaac Newton discovered that mass is the source of gravity, and Albert Einstein’s famous equation E=mc2 showed that mass is also a form of energy, what mass is and where it comes from remains mysterious.

The Higgs mechanism proposes that mass arises when particles, such as protons, interact with the Higgs field, a sort of force field that permeates everything. The Higgs boson acts as the go-between, allowing the Higgs field to interact with particles that have mass.

So this may see the beginning of the end of one mystery, but other mysteries remain. Much of the excitement in physics at the moment concerns unknowns. This year’s Nobel Prize, for example, went to three scientists who, in 1998, discovered that the cosmos is expanding at an ever-increasing rate, an expansion driven by a mysterious force called dark energy. Even though this research won the Nobel, no one knows what dark energy actually is.

One suggestion is that dark energy is simply another force, which, for some reason, is growing stronger over time. Another that it is a leftover from whatever came before the Big Bang; the truth is that we don’t have a clue.

What is a Higgs boson?

It has been 50 years since Peter Higgs, a British physicist, first proposed that atoms get their mass from an invisible field spread across the entire universe but his theory could soon be confirmed by data from the Large Hadron Collider.

According to Prof Higgs's 1964 theory, the field gives mass to the tiny particles that make up atoms, explaining why these building blocks of matter do not simply whizz around space at the speed of light.

If its existence is proven, the Higgs boson - nicknamed the "God Particle" - would provide the last missing piece of evidence for the Standard Model, the most widely accepted explanation of how the universe is composed.

 

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