Nation

A closer look at the Higgs boson

What is the Higgs boson?

Everything is made up of atoms, and inside atoms are electrons, protons and neutrons. Scientists have long puzzled over how these minute building blocks of the universe acquire mass. Without mass, particles wouldn’t hold together and there would be no matter. One theory proposed by British physicist Peter Higgs and teams in Belgium and the United States in the 1960s is that a new particle must be creating a ‘‘sticky’’ field that acts as a drag on other particles. The atom-smashing experiments at the European Center for Nuclear Research have now captured a glimpse of what appears to be just such a Higgs-like particle.

Why is this important?

The Higgs is part of many theories explaining how the world came into being. If it doesn’t exist, then those theories would need to be overhauled. But the measurements seem to diverge slightly from what would be expected. This is exciting for scientists because it opens the possibility of far-reaching discoveries.

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