The “God particle” has a precise mass now

Refined calculations on the Higgs Boson particle by CERN has estimated the mass with 0.1% uncertainty

Higgs Boson or the infamous “God particle” has perhaps been one of the biggest discoveries of our time. The news spread like wildfire when the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced its detection in 2012, using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). So what’s with all the excitement around the discovery of Higgs boson?

To understand the concept of Higgs particle a little better, let’s get a quick refresher about the forces of nature. According to the standard model of particle physics, there are four forces in nature — gravity, electromagnetism, strong & weak nuclear forces. We experience the first two on a daily basis, while the third one is the binding force between atoms and the fourth one enables the fusion of hydrogen atoms which eventually powers the sun.

This same weak force can change the up quark into a down quark & vice versa. Quarks are basically subatomic particles which make up protons & neutrons — where the former is made up of two up quarks and a down quark & the latter comprises of one up quark and two down quarks (figure below). Higgs Boson is therefore considered the last piece of the puzzle.

The current theory of particle physics which explains the workings of the universe has its shortcomings — it can’t explain the dark energy & dark matter which make up more than 95% of the known universe. However, it offers the best explanation we have. To improve on this basic understanding, CERN is striving to conduct experiments that can offer insights about the unexplained.

Structures of atoms, nucleons, electrons, and quarks according to the Standard Model of particle physics
Structures of atoms, nucleons, electrons, and quarks according to the Standard Model of particle physics

I just wanted to clarify the naming misconception for the Higgs particle being commonly referred to as the “God particle” in the media. Hardly anyone in the scientific community calls it other than the Higgs boson. It started off with the hypothesis for the particle that was originally proposed by Leon Lederman in his book “The Goddamn Particle.”

The publisher suggested that this name might cause the book to lose sales, therefore suggested an alternative as “The God Particle,” which Lederman eventually agreed to. So all of you who thought the particle was named due to its divine origin or something, you are sadly mistaken. However, the authors who originally floated the idea did end up getting the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics, after the discovery of the particle in 2012.

Coming back to the particle itself, it garners so much attention, being the final elementary particle predicted by the current theory of particle physics & also because boson in the name refers to the Higgs field which is uniformly spread out in the universe. The Higgs field basically provides mass to other fundamental particles, like quarks & leptons when they interact with the field.

The Higgs boson measured about 125 to 126 Gigaelectronvolts (GeV) when it was first detected in 2012. Ever since then, scientists have been refining their technique & taking measurements to get a precise measurement of its mass. With the collaboration between ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus) and CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid), researchers have now come up with a more precise number for the mass at 125.35 GeV, with an uncertainty factor of 0.1%.

The new mass measurement is based on the calculations conducted in the LHC between 2011–2016. Multiple observations were combined to reach this result since Higgs boson is highly unstable & breaks up into lighter particles like Z bosons, leptons & photons randomly.

Although the new measurement is not groundbreaking in any way, it does provide further insight into the all-important particle & the current limitations of the Physics model. More importantly, this will eventually lead to a better understanding of how the universe functions.

All Rights Reserved for Faisal Khan

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