Science

Happy Higgs Boson Freedom Day!

It’s official – CERN scientists have announced that they’ve discovered the Higgs Boson, the elusive little fella who is responsible for giving everything around us mass. The slideshow accompanying the announcement incorporated Comic Sans, much to the chagrin of the Internet, and even to the creator of Comic Sans himself.

To celebrate, those in the US should attend large parties where you consume a lot of food in an attempt to gain mass. The rest can watch this enlightening video in which science writer Ian Sample explains the Higgs Boson using a tray and some ping pong balls.

Featured image comes from this previous post in which we revealed top secret photos from inside CERN (seriously)!

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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12 Comments

  1. July 4, 2012 at 9:43 am —

    How amazing for everyone who worked towards this discovery, right down to the people who built the LHC. I am so glad Peter Higgs was able to be there for the announcement. Fifty years is a long time to wait to be proven right.

  2. July 4, 2012 at 9:57 am —

    Cool video, Phd comics also has a good one here:

    and 60 Symbols yet another one https://t.co/AckgvLsn .

  3. July 4, 2012 at 11:05 am —

    I’ve seen a lot of talks by scientists, and far too many of them are stylistically cringe-worthy. For a discipline that relies so heavily on communication with peers and the public, we could do a little better!

    That said, yay 3 sigma Higgs!

  4. July 4, 2012 at 11:08 am —

    Wonderful news, but the bad thing is hundreds of scientists have spent a good part of their careers proving that the Higgs boson is real only to have the main stream media trot out Physicists say they’ve found evidence of ‘God particle’ and Why finding the ‘God particle’ is a big deal and Elementary, dear God, that’s not even mentioning the tons and tons of puns.

    Whoever came up with calling it the ‘god particle’ should really feel ashamed of themselves right now.

  5. July 4, 2012 at 11:48 am —

    I almost missed the press conference: I only remembered it when I looked at the sci-ence.org/hype/ cartoon. It had been going on for 15 min then (oh shitshitshit). Luckily, they were still trying to get everyone seated…

    Minor point: They found a particle where the Standard Model Higgs boson should be. Now they will try to find it’s properties and whether it is the S-M Higgs or a Higgs (there might be more than one).

    Exciting times!

  6. July 5, 2012 at 7:03 am —

    In real life I’m a legal documents and PR guy so I know I’m about to have my ignorant ass handed to me. Two questions: 1. Which came first, particles attaining mass or the Higgs field?…mass right? because otherwise they would have all remained like photons whizzing about? 2. Is the Higgs field and particle no longer found in nature or is only produced by cosmic grand explosions or cloned like a baby T-Rex in an underground facility?

    Thanks for sharing.

    • July 5, 2012 at 3:36 pm —

      The way I think it works is the particles (or many of them) were created in the 1st trillionth of a second of the big bang (when expansion caused the energy density to become low enough for them to precipitate out), but they were massless until the Higgs field formed a trillionth of a second later. So the particles already existed, but didn’t acquire mass until the Higgs field arose.

      2) I think the Higgs field still exists because baryons still have mass. I think if the field were to suddenly vanish, baryonic matter (what the Earth, Sun, planets and stars and we are made of) would suddenly become massless and would fly off at the speed of light.

      As I understand it (I could be totally wrong about this), the Higgs bosons arise from the quantization of the Higgs field, just as photons arise from the quantization of the electromagnetic field. But it takes far more energy to “collapse the wave function” and pry a Higgs particle loose from the Higgs field, which is something any ordinary run of the mill atom can do to visible light.

      Incidentally, there are collisions of cosmic rays with atoms in the earth’s upper atmosphere with thousands of times the energy of the LHC happening all the time. We don’t see Higgs particles from these collisions because it is almost impossible to get several thousand tons of detector in the right place at the right time, and they don’t survive long enough to reach the ground. The AMS experiment on the ISS attempts to get around this by putting a much smaller detector above the atmosphere and recording data for a decade or two. There are lots of other things it can observe, such as TeV cosmic rays with 10 times the energy that can be produced in the LHC, so detecting the Higgs in the LHC doesn’t make the AMS obsolete. Among other scientific puzzles it should help solve are what happened to all the primordial anti-matter in the universe and what dark matter really is.

      P.S. While googling about AMS and the Higgs boson, I came across info about yet another amazing scientist.

      • July 6, 2012 at 11:56 am —

        Sounds right about the Higgs (but what do I know).

        However, I never heard of the AMS being used to find the Higgs. It decays almost immediately (the Higgs, that is), so it would have to be created close to the AMS. And would the AMS detect the decay products at the relevant energies?

        And why does the spell checker know neither Higgs nor AMS?

        • July 6, 2012 at 7:17 pm —

          You may be right about the AMS. I couldn’t find anything specific either, but I thought I remembered them talking about it when it was launched (or maybe back when it was rescued from oblivion.) The detectors seemed to be in the right range.

          The AMS depends on random cosmic ray hits; presumably if it were to detect a Higgs boson, it would be because a >125 Gev cosmic ray hit an atom in the AMS and generated one inside the detector.

          My spell checker seems to like AMS (maybe because it’s an acronym?) but not Higgs. It doesn’t like baryonic either.

  7. July 5, 2012 at 12:33 pm —

    The neatest description I heard for the Higgs Field was “Imagine Leonard Nimoy walking through Comic Con.”

    • July 6, 2012 at 12:07 pm —

      During the press conference they explained it like this: The journalists (= Higgs field(?)) clustering around Peter Higgs gave him a hight amount of mass (slowing him down). It was off camera but I suspect that was the reason for the 20 min or so delay of the press conference (which in turn might be the reason for giving the explanation so pointedly:-)

  8. July 7, 2012 at 2:42 am —

    Rebecca Watson,

    You know I sent you gals a video on the Higgs Boson, when I first saw this I thought it might be the same video. I’m glad it was not.

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