Do you understand the Higgs Boson?
If not, you’re not alone. According to Symmetry Magazine, in 1993 UK Science Minister at the time, William Waldergrave, held a competition asking for the best Higgs explanation:
According to the Higgs model, elementary particles gain mass by interacting with an invisible, omnipresent field. The more a particle interacts with the Higgs field, the more mass it will have.
Scientists had such difficulty explaining the Higgs field to the British government that in 1993, UK Science Minister William Waldegrave challenged them to send him their best one-page descriptions. Waldegrave handed out champagne to the winners, who included physicist David Miller of University College London.
Miller compared the Higgs field to a crowd of political party workers spread evenly through a room. An anonymous person could move through the crowd unhindered. However, then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher would attract a lot of attention: Party workers would clump around her, slowing her down, giving her metaphorical “mass.”
Creative types have since swapped the characters in the metaphor for Albert Einstein mobbed by fellow scientists or pop stars swarmed by paparazzi.
Read more at symmetrymagazine.org
Now for the science bit…
If you want more detail, this Royal Society talk by Professor John Ellis in March this year provides a more in depth explanation.
He looks at the mysteries that remain. Now that the Higgs Boson has been discovered what does it mean? Is the Standard Model of the Universe now complete and if so, what’s next? Despite the discovery of this particle proving how particles gain mass, many questions remain unanswered.
Is ’empty’ space unstable? What is the origin of matter? What is dark matter?
The Long Road to the Higgs Boson – and Beyond: 2015 Royal Society Bakerian Lecture by Professor John Ellis CBE FRS