Since Einstein coined the principle that gravity was not a fundamental force of the universe, there have been many mysteries to solve. One of these mysteries is related to how gravity interacts with the mass of a particle. Another one was if the mass was also a function of some field.
In the mid-sixties, Peter Higgs came up with the concept in theoretical physics that mass was an attribute of an entire field. This field provided mass to every other particle, and for this contribution to science, the field was called Higgs Field. Higgs Boson is the fundamental particle that this field consists of.
Since this concept was introduced, experimental physicists have worked relentlessly to find this fundamental particle. But who discovered Higgs Boson? In 2012, researchers at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN discovered Higgs Boson to answer that question. Ever since this discovery, the scientific community has been highly interested in what gives rise to mass and how the Higgs Field interacts with the world. If you, too, are interested in learning about why it is called the God Particle, let’s dive deeper into the concept.
Higgs Boson Particle: What is Higgs Field?
Even after the large expanse of time humans have spent inhabiting the earth, nature is still as much of a mystery to us as it was when discoverers first set sail to explore our world. Humans have yet to explore 95% of the oceans and go to depths of over 12 km. Now, theoretical and experimental physicists from all over the world in the twentieth century wondered about the fundamental building blocks of the world. Einstein helped in understanding that energy and mass are convertible into one another. At the speed of light, an object starts to lose its mass, and this mass is converted into energy. Now the question was, what gives rise to mass then?
That was the question that Peter Higgs and colleagues answered in their thesis. They suggested that an entire field exists in our nature which contains mass in the form of energy. This field is called the Higgs Field and constitutes the basic principle of mass creation. But again, the law of conservation of mass could not be violated either. So, Higgs suggested that the Higgs field did not give rise to mass; instead, when particles like electrons or protons interacted with the Higgs field, they gained a fixed amount of mass as they converted from energy. As the particles gained mass, they moved further away from achieving the speed of light.
Higgs Boson Discovery
Another mystery kept scientists busy for the next fifty years after the theoretical inception of Higgs Field. This was the mystery of what constituted this field and how the energy was stored in this field. Just as electromagnetic waves interact with nature in the form of photons, scientists at CERN discovered that the Higgs Field interacted with particles in the form of the Higgs Boson. The Higgs Boson discovery came out in 2012 when scientists used the Large Hadron Collider to experiment and determine whether mass could be created from energy.
The term ‘boson’ in itself means ‘force carrier.’ It is a particle that constitutes the fundamentals of a force when observed by someone in the real world. As the quantum theory suggests, every particle exists randomly until someone observes them. Similarly, when particles in the real world interact with the Higgs Field, a boson is exchanged during this interaction. This interaction helps the particles gain mass and start showing properties that matter in the real world.
The very boson that interacts with particles is called ‘Higgs Boson.’ According to the quantum theory of particle physics, Higgs Boson also portrays waves like oceans.
Source / The scientists who discovered Higgs Boson in theory
So humans had now found out about the Higgs Boson, and the Higgs Boson particle theory explained how the particles gained mass. But what exactly is the mechanism that gives rise to mass creation from energy? This mechanism is called the ‘Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism.’ As the quantum theory suggests, particles show dual nature, wave-like and particle-like. When they do not interact with one another, they are in the form of waves, but when they interact with other particles, they show particle nature. Photons can be called the bosons of electromagnetic waves. So, when an electromagnetic wave is excited by some interaction, it produces photons.
Similarly, the process of excitation of the Higgs field gives rise to a Higgs Boson. Quantum excitation, or as scientists call it, ‘quantum manifestation,’ occurs because of the interaction of the Higgs field with the particles carrying energy. This process gives rise to a mass, and the process is called the ‘Brout-Englert-Higgs Mechanism.’
Is Higgs Boson The God Particle?
Source / The Higgs Boson particle theory: Is Higgs Boson the God Particle?
The common people and even some scientists gave the Higgs Boson particle the nickname ‘God Particle.’ But if you look at this name, it is a little different from the term coined during the discovery of the Higgs Boson. To this day, the community of science enthusiasts does not like the fact that this particle is called the God Particle due to a misinterpretation. According to a report published by Business Insider, Higgs Boson is called the god particle because of a phrase said by Leon Lederman. He is a Nobel laureate, and while working on detecting the Higgs Boson, he referred to the particle as ‘Goddamn Particle.’ He said so because of the difficulty he faced while experimenting with detecting the particle.
The media houses passed on this term, and due to some publicity, it turned into a ‘God particle.’ Now, it is somewhat undeniable that the functioning of the Higgs Boson particle is close to what something like a god particle should do. It is because of this article only that mass exists. Without it, nothing in the universe would have formed the way it is today; energy might be floating in the cosmos.
Importance of Higgs Boson Particle Theory
The universe, as we know it, loves symmetry. There is symmetry in everything, which is why the laws of physics are also stated with symmetry. But in 1964, researchers tried to find out more about the weak nuclear forces. They acted between the nucleons and existed at a scale of around 2 to 4 fermis. It was assumed that the particles would have any mass at such a small scale. The experiments conducted were to study W and Z bosons, types of Higgs Bosons.
The transformation of protons to neutrons during the atomic decay needed a symmetrical process, meaning W and Z bosons should be massless. This assumption was made to fit the natural symmetry of the decay. But the experiment showed different results. As per the current physics concepts, there was no explanation for this phenomenon. Peter Higgs, Francois Englert, and Robert Brout proposed the existence of the Higgs field that tricked nature into symmetry.
According to them, initially, the universe was like a pencil on its tip. The system was stable for a fraction of a second but quickly broke the symmetry, and the Higgs fields interacted with the universe and gave rise to fundamental particles. At that time, it was thought that only W and Z bosons were formed due to this process (Higgs-Englert-Brout mechanism), but that was not the case. Even the Higgs boson was a result of this mechanism only: particles that interacted more strongly with the Higgs field. Hence the Higgs Boson particle attained more mass. If this were not the case, every particle in the universe would be floating at the speed of light.
Although, this mechanism was applicable only during the initial stages of electrons and quarks.
So, what did we learn about the Higgs Boson discovery and the Higgs Boson particle theory? The Higgs Boson was discovered with the help of the Large Hadron Collider in 2012, and after decades, Higgs, Englert, and Brout were awarded the Nobel Prize for the Higgs field theory. The exact words of the Nobel Committee were: “For the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.”
Even after the Higgs Boson discovery, scientists have kept studying the Higgs Boson the God Particle and want to discover more different properties of this particle yet.
Want to know more about the Higgs Boson particle? Here’s a YouTube video for further discussions on the topic!