The discovery of this particle is an important step to understanding how the universe works.
On Wednesday evening in Melbourne, physicists from around the world packed the Melbourne Convention Centre, while hundreds also gathered in Geneva. They were there to witness one of the most significant announcements in the history of modern science: a new particle had been discovered, with properties appearing consistent with the long sought Higgs boson predicted by the ‘Standard Model’ of particle physics. The announcement was made to sustained applause from some of the world’s greatest minds. In Geneva, retired British physicist, Peter Higgs, now 83, said “it is just an incredible thing that it [the discovery] happened in my lifetime”. Higgs first postulated the existence of the particle in the 1960s.
In recent years, modern technology finally made it possible to replicate the conditions just seconds after the Big Bang. At a cost of almost $10 billion, and running for 27 km underground, the Large Hadron Collider was built 100 m below the Swiss-French border. The world’s biggest particle accelerator collides billions of particles at fantastically high speed within a vacuum, with scientists observing and analysing the results.
What exactly is the Higgs boson? Standard Model theory describes a relatively large subatomic particle which provides the interaction by which all other particles acquire mass. Without mass, particles wouldn’t even form into atoms, let alone planets or galaxies. Scientists believe that for a tiny moment after the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago, particles had no mass, but almost instantaneously acquired it due to the invisible Higgs energy field, which has been described as a ‘cosmic molasses’. The discovery of this particle is an important step to understanding how the universe works.
And what does it actually mean for us? At this stage, it could mean anything. Just as when electricity was first discovered people asked what use it was, the Higgs Field has potential at which we can only guess. The way humans have learned to manipulate the electromagnetic field to utterly transform our way of life, hints at the potential importance of proving the existence of an energy field previously only theorised about.
If you are strongly religious or a total scientific nerd, please do not read on. I know I am about to offend you. And probably many others. The scientific appreciation section of my brain simply doesn’t exist. And I know this is my failing, but as I saw the news about the Higgs boson filtering through, my eyes glazed over and I turned to the sports section. This is an appalling admission of guilt. As described above, this is one of the biggest ‘finds’ in the scientific world, and apparently, this ‘cosmic molasses’ may change everything about the way we understand our universe. It may also challenge those whose religious beliefs assert that (their) God created the universe. So this scientific discovery has potentially huge ramifications.
But as I said, I do not have a great appreciation of the Big Bang theory or much of what followed. And I do not believe in a God of creation. What I do believe in is working hard to ensure the improvement of conditions for the vast proportion of humans who, for the ‘have not’ sector of our society, whether they are marginalised by economic circumstance, lack of opportunity, age or disability. So in my world, this much applauded discovery will pass by, barely noticed. I am much more interested in the here and now and what we can do to help those in need.
Follow Kaye on Twitter: @Kaye_YLC
Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free
- Receive our daily enewsletter
- Enter competitions
- Comment on articles