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What is Higgs boson – and will CERN scientists find the 'God particle'?

CERN scientists are today successfully crashing particles together at nearly the speed of light. With such high-speed collisions, they hope to finally detect the elusive Higgs boson.

By Correspondent / March 30, 2010

An event display shows the activity during a high-energy collision at the CMS control room of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) at their headquarters outside Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday. The $10 billion Large Hadron Collider directed two proton beams into each other at three times more force than ever before, Tuesday, as part of its ambitious bid to reveal details about theoretical particles and microforces.

Anja Niedringhaus/AP



Like followers of God, followers of the Higgs boson act on faith. The Higgs boson has never been observed, and some physicists doubt it even exists.

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In an attempt to prove the particle’s existence, physicists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) rammed protons together today at an energy level of about 7 trillion electron volts at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which straddles the border of Switzerland and France.

Type Higgs boson into Google and you get the search option ‘Higgs boson for dummies' as well as ‘Higgs boson time travel’ and ‘Higgs boson doesn’t want to be found.’

Here's a run-down about the so-called 'God particle.'

IN PICTURES: Nuclear power around the world

What is a boson?

A boson is a sub-atomic particle. The atomic particles are protons, neutrons, and electrons. While the Greek word atom means indivisible, modern scientists found atomic particles divisible into sub-atomic particles. These include quarks, leptons, and bosons. They were only hypothesized and observed in the last century.

This is according to the Standard Model of physics, the most accepted universal theory of everything. (The string theory is a strong contender.)

What is the Higgs boson?

But scientists aren’t entirely sure how these subatomic particles gained mass. They speculate that another boson (or bosons), named after scientist Peter Higgs who helped come up with the idea, imparts mass on other bosons and all quarks and leptons.

Observing the Higgs boson would give credence to the Standard Model and help explain the origin of mass and the four forces of nature – (1) electromagnetism, (2) the strong force (which binds atomic nuclei), (3) the weak force (which governs radioactive decay and some fusion reactions), and (4) gravity. Observing the Higgs boson may also unleash a black hole or anti-matter that will annihilate us all, say a few.

What does this have to do with the Large Hadron Collider?

Scientists at CERN hope to observe the Higgs boson.

The LHC accelerates two particle beams, called hadrons, around a 17-mile ring in opposite directions. The goal is to get the two beams to collide at nearly the speed of light. But that’s hard because the beams are so small, and the scientists don’t expect a collision every time.

If a collision does occur, it could create smaller pieces of matter –particles – a scenario similar to that at the beginning of the universe, giving scientists a unique look at the universe’s origins and at particles never before observed. Particles such as the Higgs boson.

Why is the Higgs boson to hard to detect?


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