“The capacity to be puzzled is the premise of all creation, be it in art or in science.”
– Eric Fromm
One second after the big bang a particle was created and has been playing a game of hide and seek ever since. The reason we know it should exist is that there’s a piece missing from our jigsaw for the Standard Model of physics – the Higgs boson particle. Now a lot of people are very fond of our Standard Model and a jigsaw just doesn’t look complete if there’s a big glaring hole in it. So ever since the idea was first suggested, the search has been on for the elusive God Particle.
The theory, which has been around for fifty years, states that moments after the big bang the Higgs boson field and its associated particle were created, but until now we’ve found no direct evidence. That’s all changed in 2011 when news from the Large Hadrian Collider (LHC), where we can recreate those early conditions of our universe, hinted at its detection.
Without Higgs boson in the Standard Model there would be no life... symmetry would rule, a desire for order you see reflected in the perfect structures of snowflakes. But without something to give particles mass and slow them down, the Higgs boson field, our celestial treacle if you will, things would be very, very different. All particles would have flown apart at the speed of light from the big bang and without the clumping of interstellar gasses and the consequent formation of stars, then there would be no planets and certainly no life. This is the paradox at the heart of modern physics and is why so many scientists have been spent so much time and energy looking for it.
This year could be the most exciting moment in physics since Einstein revealed his theory of relativity. Certainly I’m sure for many of those involved in theoretical physics, they’ll remember exactly when they were if they hear the news confirming the existence of the Higgs boson particle later this year.