God Particle Annoucement: Clearing Higgs Boson Confusion

The one reason “god particle” is the number two most popular search on Google Trends as of this writing is because a huge number of lay people are hearing about today’s announcement this morning, and undoubtedly think this refers to some proof of the existence of God. It doesn’t. What it does prove is how awful the media is at explaining physics issues, and while some may think this blog doesn’t advance the cause, it at least gets the God confusion out of the way.

The “God particle” refers to the theorized existence of one particle that acts as a “broker” between other particles – it’s called the “Higgs Boson.” Named for the scientist who posited the existence of the “Higgs field” – a place where this kind of dolling-out of mass to particles takes place – the Higgs Boson describes the particles that make up the space. This video by Fermilab’s Dr. Don Lincoln explains:

Dr. Lincon also gives this video update:

If you think of water as consisting of many molecular particles called h20, then the idea is that the universe too is made up of particles. As Alan Boyle explains it for MSNBC:

For decades, physicists have used a theory known as the Standard Model to explain the interactions of subatomic particles, and the theory works beautifully. It’s guided our way through the world of nuclear power, television, microwave ovens and lasers. One problem: The theory needed something extra to explain why some particles have mass and some don’t. Back in the 1960s, physicist Peter Higgs and his colleagues proposed the existence of a mysterious energy field that interacts with some particles more than others, resulting in varying values for particle mass. That field is known as the Higgs field, and it’s associated with a particle called the Higgs boson. Today, the Higgs boson is the last fundamental piece missing from the Standard Model. Finding it is the most commonly cited reason for building the $10 billion LHC. If the characteristics of the Higgs particle (or particles) match what’s predicted by the current formulation of the Standard Model, that would bring a sense of completion to particle physics. If the Higgs isn’t found, that might force physicists to tweak or even discard the Standard Model.

So what are the implications of this for our daily lives? Well, none. And the “God Particle” has nothing to do with any search for the Lord. It’s just an effort, albeit an expensive one considering the particle accelerators built for it, to better understand how our universe works, not so much how its manipulated.

Stay tuned.