Some of my science sources for this series are Scientists working at CERN and at Fermi Labs. I live in driving distance of Fermi Lab and attend lectures by distinguished Scientists working on the Higgs Boson, Dark Matter, neutrinos, and muons. In mid November, Higgs Boson Scientist Don Lincoln suggested not to use the "God Particle" term for the Higgs Boson for both religious and atheistic reasons. Its not fair to give God credit for just one particle since God is the source of all particles. And the phrase "The God Particle" annoys atheists.
I agree and therefore, I am changing the name of this series to the "Higgs Boson". To understand the importance of the Higgs Boson, we are going to leap into world of particles physics, quantum mechanics and quantum field theory in upcoming articles.
The Higgs Boson - 1
In the Movie “Angels and Demons”, Tom Hanks learns that CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) is on the verge of discovering “The God Particle” and also that religious fanatics are planning to blow up the Vatican using antimatter created by CERN. Good news on both fronts. Tom Hanks saves the Vatican and in July 2012, CERN verifies the existence of the “The God particle” (Higgs Boson). A brilliant Physicist Leon Lederman made a reference to the Higgs Boson as the God Particle in his book on the history of particle physics. Leon’s publisher was also brilliant by discouraging the original book title “Another Boring Particle Physics Book” and going with Leon’s Higgs Boson reference “The God Particle” as its title. Bottom line you can sell more science books with God in the title.
Understanding the function of the Higgs Boson is not intuitively obvious. Yes the Higgs Boson adds mass to particles, but what does this mean? Popular explanations compare the Higgs Boson to a vat of molasses. As particles move through the molasses, some of the molasses stick to the particles and they gain weight. Another description compares the Higgs Boson to a room full of adoring rock music fans. As the Rock Star moves through the room, fans grab, touch and hang on to the beleaguered Rock Star.
I would like to share my understanding of the Higgs Boson by beginning with a little history of particle physics.
In the late 1950’s and 1960’s Physicists were discovering New Fundamental Particles almost every month. It got so out of hand that the Science Community strongly recommended the Nobel Prize in Physics be awarded to the Physicist who did NOT discover a New Particle. The Particle mess was cleaned up in the 1970’s and evolved into what became the Standard Model of Fundamental Particles.
The Fundamental Particles are divided into three groups, Quarks, Leptons and Bosons.
There are 6 Quarks: Up & Down
Charm & Strange
Top & Bottom
There are 6 Leptons: Electron & Electron Neutrino
Muon & Muon Neutrino
Tau & Tau Neutrino
There are 5 Bosons (Forces/Fields): Photon
To understand the Higgs Boson, let’s do Flash Back to Einstein’s famous equation E = MC2. This means that Energy is equivalent to Mass (physical matter). Quarks by themselves are just energy. But as the UP Quark & DOWN Quark pass through a Higgs Boson they become Protons and Neutrons.
2 UP Quarks + 1 DOWN Quark passing through a Higgs Boson = Proton
1 UP Quark + 2 DOWN Quarks passing through a Higgs Boson = Neutron
The Protons then grab lonely Electrons that are hanging around and form the Atom family. The Atom families evolve into Stars, plus with a whole lot of stuff in between, then turn into you and me. That’s right all of us are ENERGY created into Wonderful People thanks to God and the Higgs Boson.
Even if you try, you cannot make this stuff up.
At this point you maybe wondering what the other Quarks, Leptons and Bosons are doing. I hope in future articles to elaborate on this and answer questions like: what makes the Charm Quark charming or what are Neutrinos.