What is a Higgs and what news about it could possibly be massive, you wonder. Read on.
The elusive Higgs Boson, the so-far undetected particle that gives matter its mass, may have been glimpsed by scientists working at the Large Electron-Positron Collider in Switzerland. If the Higgs doesn’t exist, then our understanding of the Universe is fundamentally wrong and will have to be revised. Although Higgs are extremely massive, they are hard to observe because they only exist outside of other particles in a so-called “virtual” state. Because of quantum uncertainty, they are only “real” for such short periods of time that they are not directly observable. To detect a Higgs, one must be created by colliding extremely high-energy particles together. This converts the collision energy into matter, and if the energy is high enough, a Higgs may pop into existence. It would then decay into a telltale signature of other particles, and this is what the LEP scientists may have detected.
Unfortuately, the LEP is scheduled to shut down forever tomorrow, so enough data may not have been gathered to confirm this crucial discovery. However, if we were able to confirm the existence of the Higgs, we might be able to use the knowledge gained to eventually take some major steps in the direction of understanding how to manipulate mass and thus control gravity. This would, of course, be a revolution akin to the harnessing of fire or the discovery of the wheel.
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