So July 4th, 2012 marked the announcement by CERN of a particle that is most likely the Higgins Boson particle. (CERN physics organization, founded in 1954, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland with about 20 member countries. In French, the acronym CERN stands for “Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire” which translates to the English “European Council for Nuclear Research.” further definition and background information here: http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/CERN-Conseil-Europeen-pour-la-Recherche-Nucleaire)
CERN houses a Large Hadron Collider or “atom-smasher” and according their website:
“It is a particle accelerator used by physicists to study the smallest known particles – the fundamental building blocks of all things.”
So, I don’t have any background in physics, no degree in a science, so why was I excited to find out about this?
Well, ever since I was young, I found it fascinating that we are so itty-bitty compared to the known universe. And get this; the universe is expanding all the time. So however big you think it is, keep adding to that.
The flip side to this is that everything in this world is made up of smaller particles. So you can pick up the phone and touch it, right? But everything it’s made of are smaller and smaller particles.
What they both beg to answer is this; what is the rest of it made of? It looks like nothing, but of course it isn’t.
Just because we can’t see something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. This is why the Higgs Boson particle becomes such a large idea. It only exists for less than a septillionth of a second. (Wrap your brain around this one, a septillion is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or 10 to the 24th power) Regardless of how little time it is detectable, it DOES exist. But why is it so important? This isn’t the only element that only lasts a fraction of a second, a few elements added to the periodic table in the last few years also almost don’t exist either. Element 116 lasts for only milliseconds before it decays into element 114. This in turns lasts for about half a second before becoming Copernicium, which joined the periodic table in 2009. There are so many things that we can’t see and we’re just starting to scratch the surface.
But! But this one is important because of MASS.
Mass is the measure of an object’s resistance to acceleration. I know, I know, didn’t we all grow up thinking it was about weight or size? Here’s a website for kids explaining the difference: http://www.historyforkids.org/scienceforkids/physics/space/mass.htm
These are also children’s books that I recommend: http://basherbooks.com/usa/subjects-physics.html
I enjoy reading these because my knowledge is very limited and, unfortunately, not learned from a classroom setting. Therefore, I appreciate it when something can describe in layman’s terms.
Of course, I could have ALL OF THIS WRONG. If this is the case, please feel free to correct any concepts, but please, do it nicely as I have already admitted that I don’t have a background in science.
Here is a cute little comic video that explains the difference between seeing something and observing something. Definitely take a look, because it manages to make it very accessible. http://vimeo.com/22956103
Ugh, I am going to go ahead and quote wiki here for the sake of simplicity:
“Higgs bosons obey the conservation of energy law, which states that no energy is created or destroyed, but instead it is transferred. First, the energy starts out in the gauge boson that interacts with the Higgs field. This energy is in the form of kinetic energy as movement. After the gauge boson interacts with the Higgs field, it is slowed down. This slowing reduces the amount of kinetic energy in the gauge boson. However, this energy is not destroyed. Instead, the energy is converted into mass-energy, which is normal mass that comes from energy. The mass created is what we call a Higgs boson. The amount of mass created comes from Einstein’s famous equation E=mc2, which states that mass is equal to a large amount of energy (i.e. 1kg of mass is equivalent to almost 90 quadrillion Joules of energy – the same amount of energy used by the entire world in roughly an hour and a quarter in 2008). Since the amount of mass-energy created by the Higgs field is equal to the amount of kinetic-energy that the gauge boson lost by being slowed, energy is conserved.”
Here is a short little animation on how the idea of the Higgs Field works: http://vimeo.com/45182811
This is so elusive that Stephen Hawking himself lost $100 because he bet another scientist that it couldn’t be found. He also felt that Nobel Prize should go to Higgs. And why not? Peter Higgs came up with the theory in 1964 and scientists had been trying to find it ever since.
There is so much to this world that we don’t yet know and it’s exciting to know that new things are being discovered, whether we can see them or not. And just because something almost doesn’t exist, well, that still means it existed.
For your viewing pleasure, a video of hipsters attempting to explain the Higgs Boson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=m3-4Ez7Kc-o
Ten stories about the Higgs Boson Particle: http://io9.com/5890884/10-weird-stories-about-the-higgs-boson
Go here to read phdcomics!!! http://vimeo.com/phdcomics
Further reading and diagrams: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18707698
Click here to listen to it explained in a soothing accent by Brian Cox: http://www.ted.com/talks/brian_cox_on_cern_s_supercollider.html?source=tumblr#.T_aQZwt5s7k.tumblr
Fry: People said I was dumb, but I proved them