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What is the Higgs Boson?

The Higgs boson is frequently referred to as ‘the god particle’, a name adopted after Leon Lederman’s book. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon Lederman, the Higgs boson is a particle believed to bestow mass on all other particles.


Higgs boson is a hypothetical elementary particle predicted to exist by the Standard Model of particle physics. It is the only Standard Model particle not yet observed. An experimental observation of it would help to explain how otherwise massless elementary particles cause matter to have mass. If it exists, the Higgs boson is an integral and pervasive component of the material world.


No experiment has yet directly detected the Higgs boson; the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, which came on line on 10 September 2008, is expected to provide experimental evidence that will confirm or reject the particle’s existence when fully operational in 2009. The Higgs mechanism, which gives mass to vector bosons, was theorized in August 1964 by François Englert and Robert Brout (“boson scalaire”);in October of the same year by Peter Higgs, working from the ideas of Philip Anderson; and independently by Gerald Guralnik, C. R. Hagen, and Tom Kibble, who worked out the results by the spring of 1963. The three papers written on this discovery by Guralnik, Hagen, Kibble, Higgs, Brout, and Englert were each recognized as milestone papers by Physical Review Letters 50th anniversary celebration.


The Higgs boson plays a key role in the standard model of physics (the theory on which physicists base their whole understanding of matter), proving the existence or absence of the Higgs boson could change the entire foundation of physics, indicating the existence of particles and forces not yet imagined and paving the way for an entirely new set of laws.


The world’s most powerful atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider at Cern near Geneva, has been running at full tilt for more than a year. Yet, despite rumours on the internet of exciting discoveries, the thousands of scientists working on the LHC have not yet found the elusive Higgs boson, or previously hidden dimensions of space or indeed any “new physics”.


Cern’s top scientists, gathered at the Royal Society in London last week to discuss the latest LHC results, asked the media not to expect too much too soon. They want another 18 months to find out whether the Higgs boson – the subatomic particle supposedly responsible for the fundamental property of mass – actually exists.


“I’m pretty confident that towards the end of 2012 we will have an answer to the Shakespeare question for the Higgs boson: to be or not to be?” said Rolf Heuer, Cern director-general.

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