On the 4th July 2012, a lifetime’s worth of work appeared to finally come to a head, cumulating in what is believed to be the discovery of the Higgs boson particle. The Higgs boson is the last of 12 proposed sub atomic particles to be found, as part of the standard model. The results were found independently by two different groups of scientists, making the results more reliable and suggesting that the experimental results are consistent. More recent results suggest there is a higher certainty that it does exist, citing 5.9 sigma levels of certainty. 5 sigma levels of certainty are needed in particle physics to class results as a discovery, so this is a great breakthrough for all those who have worked on this research.
The theory of the standard model first came about in the early 1960’s, when it was discovered that there was more to the structure of atoms than first thought. The theory is able to explain many experimental results that were once confusing and inexplicable to those who found them. A boson is a particular type of sub-atomic particle proposed as part of the standard model. A boson is by definition any particle that obeys Bose-Einstein statistics, and it has no spin or electric charge.
Professor Peter Higgs, almost simultaneously with two other teams of physicists, first proposed the existence of the Higgs boson in 1964, Higgs being the only one to explicitly predict it to be a particle and to suggest what some possible properties of the particle might be. The papers published by these teams proposed how particles could acquire mass in a way that fits in with the other laws in particle physics. The existence of the Higgs boson would provide proof for the Higgs field, which is believed to be behind all the mass in the world. The detection of a bump in the energy measured in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Switzerland, that would be expected if a Higgs boson was detected, suggests that the field does indeed exist, although how it works exactly is still unclear. Despite this, the discovery as a whole means our understanding of the world at an almost unfathomable level is increasing as we begin to discover the mechanism behind some of the most fundamental processes taking place all the time. This could be possibly the most significant scientific break through in recent years.
The entirety of what this discovery will eventually bring to the field of particle physics is yet to be fully realised, but it does shows that the teams who have worked on this for 40 years were not wasting their time as it confirms their beliefs. The wide media coverage of the discovery also brings the work being conducted at the LHC to the attention of the general public, hopefully inciting interest in the field.