In case you haven’t heard, on the 4th of July there was a momentous announcement at CERN, the huge physics facility on the border of
France and Switzerland. Physicists believe that they have found a new boson, a kind of subatomic particle. However, the news is more
significant than that. This new mote might be the legendary Higgs boson, the particle hypothesized to bestow mass on quarks and leptons, two other kinds of subatomic particles that together build up matter.
“We have discovered a new particle, a boson, probably a Higgs boson,” said Rolf-Dieter Heuer, CERN’s director general. “But we have to find out what kind of boson it is.”
But what exactly does this discovery mean for everyone without a physics Ph.D.? Well, finding this new particle would finally explain
why some particles have mass and some don’t, and ultimately why our universe looks the way it does. According to thinking in the 1960s, the universe is pervaded by the Higgs field: invisible, tasteless, and odorless. As particles whiz through this invisible medium, they either interact with it or they don’t. The more they interact with it, the more mass they acquire.
The discovery of the Higgs boson would also complete the Standard Model, a description of the universe’s fundamental particles and
Heuer struck an understated note, saying, “I think there could be worse days in the life of a director general.”