In which I explain the Higgs Boson to my girlfriend, who is a biologist not a physicist.
Background: My girlfriend asked me to explain why the discovery of the Higgs Boson (Or something very much like it) was such a big deal. This was a facebook chat in which I tried to explain it to her. It's not 100% scientifically accurate, I know, but it should help you understand it a little bit better. I hope.
Alex Wright: ok, so, first I should explain what a Boson is
Krista: ok, coles notes version please
Alex Wright: alright, so, a boson is a field mediating particle, like a photon
are you familiar with the electromagnetic field?
Alex Wright: ok, so the photon is the boson that mediates the electromagnetic field. the field, and force, doesn't exist without and is made up of photons. If you excite the field to a certain energy, photons are released. and we can observe them
Krista: yes I understand that
Alex Wright: it's like when you slosh around a bucket of water and some of the water at the surface splashes up into a drop separate from the larger body of water
ok, so that's the basics of bosons the Higgs boson is a very special type of boson
You know that atoms are essentially 98% empty space, yes?
Alex Wright: you've got your nucleus, and the electrons are floating around about as far away as jupiter from the sun, if we're talking scale here.
Krista: yes, I know that
Alex Wright: so most of the universe is about 98% nothing
but this doesn't really make sense, because if it was truly empty, everything would be zooming around at the speed of light, einstein's general relativity tells us that the thing that keeps particles form zooming about at light speed is mass. some particles don't have mass, like photons, which obviously travel at light speed.
Alex Wright: but what creates mass?
50 years ago, a smart guy named Peter Higgs suggested that that 98% of empty space wasn't empty at all, he hypothesized that this empty space was actually completely saturated with the Higgs Field
the Higgs field acts like a quantum molasses which slows down these particles as they travel through space.
Krista: ooo cool
Alex Wright: o, he proposed this 50 years ago, and described the phenomenon with mathematics, and it made sense, but the problem was, the Higgs field has such high energy, and because of Einstein's E=mc^2 equation, such high mass properties, it takes an immense amount of energy to excite the field enough to observe the particle
and then they did
Ok. wow I actually get it.
Alex Wright: Yay
Krista: you should post that explanation.
because every other one makes no sense.
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