How embarrassing: I threw my Higgs boson party last year, when physicists (including a number of Johns Hopkinites) determined that the so-called “God particle” existed. But apparently I was way too early. This week, CERN finally announced a “tentative confirmation” of the particle in question. In scientist-speak, that counts as extreme enthusiasm. So now we can throw a party.
Want to get more technical? Gladly. “In just one channel with two Z-bosons alone, we prove that the chance of a mistake to see a new particle is less than one in a hundred billion,” says Johns Hopkins experimental physicist Andrei Gritsan, according to the Hopkins Hub. “With such an amazing precision, everything looks exceedingly consistent with this particle being the Higgs boson, such as 99.8 percent confidence in excluding opposite parity (property in the mirror reflection) or more than 99 percent exclusion of the suspect models with non-zero spin. It all points to the property of vacuum, which is filled with the all-penetrating Higgs field, where the boson is simply its excitation created in the laboratory. Our past, present, and future depend on the properties of this field, and we are still to understand all the implications of this grand discovery and to study in detail this new form of matter-energy never known before.”
I hope that clears things up for you. If you want more of a lay-person’s explanation for the Higgs boson, we recommend Johns Hopkins physicist David Kaplan’s distillation from last year. Hint: the God particle is the little guy that gives mass to fundamental particles like electrons, thus allowing matter to exist.
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