Here is a necessarily oversimplified stab (using material provided by specialist writers) at rendering in layman’s terms the potential impact of a discovery whose intricacies escape most of us – including, by definition, journalists. That discovery is the ‘Higgs Boson particle’, by a group of international experts in Switzerland.
Particle physicists and other scientists using the language of refined mathematics have laboured for many years to identify all the pieces for a theory of almost everything, referred to as ‘the Standard Model’.
Their arsenal of tools at CERN, the international research facility in Geneva, includes a pipe that runs in a 27-kilometre-long circle deep underground, the world’s biggest and most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider.
Defying mountains of data on his desk, theorist John Ellis ventured to illustrate what the newly-discovered ‘Higgs Boson particle’ is.
Ellis said: “It’s the last piece in the ‘Standard Model.’ The Standard Model describes all the matter that we can see in the universe, you, me, the planet, the stars, galaxies, all that matter is described by the Standard Model. That description only makes sense if a Higgs Boson exists.”
Two beams of protons were fired in opposite directions around the accelerator, smashing into each other to create many millions of particle collisions every second.
This simulated theorists’ construction of the conditions a fraction of a second after the Big Bang, when the Higgs field is believed to have ‘switched on’.
Scientists consider that particles gained mass and then formed the universe through their interaction with an invisible energy field that pervades the whole cosmos.
But not all particles gained mass.
If you pictured, say, George Clooney as a single special particle out of all the people particles in the world, and a group of photographers around him as the Higgs field, slowing him down, just one of their eyelashes would represent the interactive Higgs particle.
That subatomic particle is thought to be the key to the formation of all matter, and eventually life.
But in our big universe, the scientific Standard Model has gaps in it, explaining only some of what is there.
The invisible stuff which is not understood is called ‘dark matter’.
Galaxies are also observed to be moving apart at rates faster than known forces suggest they should.
That acceleration is attributed to ‘dark energy’.
Dark matter and energy are believed to make up 96 percent of the mass and energy of the cosmos.
The Standard Model, if it is confirmed by the Higgs Particle discovery, is a step towards accounting for all of it.
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