Higgs boson

The Higgs boson is an elementary particle in the Standard Model of particle physics. It is the quantum mechanical excitation of the Higgs field —a fundamental field of crucial importance to particle physics theory,  first suspected to exist in the 1960s, that unlike other known fields such as the electromagnetic field, takes a non-zero constant value almost everywhere. 

It is what makes up the Higgs field

The Higgs field's existence has been the last unverified part of the Standard Model of particle physics and, according to some, "the central problem in particle physics”. 

The presence of this field, now believed to be confirmed, explains why some fundamental particles have mass when, based on the symmetries controlling their interactions, they should be massless. The existence of the Higgs field would also resolve several other long-standing puzzles, such as the reason for the weak force's extremely short range.

Summary of interactions between certain particles described by the Standard Model. image: TriTertButoxy /wikipedia

Although it is hypothesized that the Higgs field permeates the entire Universe, evidence for its existence has been very difficult to obtain. In principle, the Higgs field can be detected through its excitations, manifest as Higgs particles, but these are extremely difficult to produce and detect. 

The importance of this fundamental question led to a 40 year search, and the construction of one of the world's most expensive and complex experimental facilities to date, CERN's Large Hadron Collider,  in an attempt to create Higgs bosons and other particles for observation and study. On 4 July 2012, the discovery of a new particle with a mass between 125 and 127 GeV/c2 was announced; physicists suspected that it was the Higgs boson. 

 Since then, the particle has been shown to behave, interact, and decay in many of the ways predicted by the Standard Model. It was also tentatively confirmed to have even parity and zero spin,  two fundamental attributes of a Higgs boson. This appears to be the first elementary scalar particle discovered in nature. 

More studies are needed to verify that the discovered particle has properties matching those predicted for the Higgs boson by the Standard Model, or whether, as predicted by some theories, multiple Higgs bosons exist. 

The Higgs boson is named after Peter Higgs, one of six physicists who, in 1964, proposed the mechanism that suggested the existence of such a particle. On December 10, 2013, two of them, Peter Higgs and François Englert, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work and prediction (Englert's co-researcher Robert Brout had died in 2011 and the Nobel Prize is not ordinarily given posthumously). 

Although Higgs's name has come to be associated with this theory, several researchers between about 1960 and 1972 independently developed different parts of it. In mainstream media the Higgs boson has often been called the "God particle", from a 1993 book on the topic; the nickname is strongly disliked by many physicists, including Higgs, who regard it as sensationalistic.

source adapted from: Higgs boson. (2016, January 12). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 06:17, January 13, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Higgs_boson&oldid=699418475