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FAQ: Higgs Boson For Dummies

FAQ: Higgs Boson For Dummies

By Jeremy Blachman

It's official! Peter Higgs and Francois Englert won the Nobel prize for discovering the Higgs boson particle! So, what is a Higgs boson, anyways? Good question! And we're here to revisit a story we brought you last year that will hopefully clear everything up for you.

Q: So I keep reading about this physics guy named Higgs Boson. Who is he, and why is he in the news all of a sudden?

A: It's not a he.

Q: It's a she?

A: No, it's an it.

Q: So... it's not a person...?

A: Correct. It's a particle.

Q: A particle? What's that?

A: A basic building block of stuff. Like an electron.

Q: Or like an atom?

A: Well, an atom is made up of other, smaller particles. But yes. Sort of like an atom.

Q: And how does this Higgs thing fit into that?

A: About 40 years ago, physicists tried to put together a theory that would explain why stuff behaves the way it does. They called it the Standard Model. One of the things they imagined would need to be part of that Standard Model was a boson, a type of particle that would allow other particles to do the kinds of things that particles do.

Q: And what do particles do?

A: They combine together. They form things. Bosons help slow particles down from their natural super-speed and let them join up with other particles and stick together.

Q: Okay...

A: But for all of these years, it's only been a theory. This guy named Higgs had proposed that these bosons exist to do this stuff, but no one had ever seen them. Until last year when a machine in Switzerland designed to test the predictions of physicists found something that would be consistent with the existence of the Higgs boson.

Q: So they saw one?

A: They think they saw one. They saw something that could very well be a Higgs boson.

Q: Why aren't they sure?

A: The Higgs boson is an unstable particle. As soon as you see it, it's gone.

Q: And why is this exciting?

A: Because it would mean that some crazy theory a bunch of physicists came up with 50 years ago to explain the way the world works might actually be true.

Q: And if I wanted to watch a 7-minute comic-book-style video made by a physicist to explain this in more detail?

A: You can! Here's the link.

Q: Thanks. So you're sure Higgs Boson isn't just some guy's name?

A: Yes. Almost 100% sure.

Q: Cool.

A: Cool.

Are you more or less confused than before?

Tags: science, life, physics, higgs boson particle

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