Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Higgs Boson Explained

So, we have all heard the news. The Higgs Boson has been practically found(they found it, they found it)!!! Woot!
Some of you may be wondering about what the Higgs boson is and why it is so important? So, I have dug up some research on it, and have presented it in a way that I hope will help to explain why the Higgs is awesome.

Higgs and Mass and Matter

"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not Eureka! (I found it!) but rather, 'hmm... that's funny...'"
--Isaac Asimov

The Universe, as we know it, is a vast abyss filled with a vast number of subatomic particles and waves that work as one; the other, or at times both in an intricate coordinated harmony. They work in this harmony in order to make the elements that combine, react, and form everything that we see, know, and are. Scientists are currently trying to fit this harmony of movements, interactions, and masses into a perfect equation that will finally answer many of the multitudes of phenomena that we experience every day; thing such as the notion that some objects have mass while some quantum entities seem to lack it. The current theory that has captured the attention of the scientific community is the Standard Model. Up till know, this model has passed every inspection and test, but there is one major problem that is plaguing this model at the moment. The major part of the Standard Model that is missing is the foundation that it stands on. The Higgs Field which is, theoretically speaking, the ocean of the universe, has to be found, and the hunt for this mysterious field has been going on for many years. But in order for the Higgs field to be found, scientists must first find the fundamental makeup of the Higgs field. While the Higgs Field is theorized as the ocean that the universe is submersed in, the Higgs Boson is its water molecule (Possible Hints Particle). If the Higgs Boson is found, then the Higgs field must exist. When the Higgs Boson is found, it will bring new meaning to the Standard Model, the big bang, and everything we thought we knew about mass.

The Universe is governed by two principles that are unable, at this time, to coexist with each other in any rational theory. The theory of general relativity explains the macro world, while the quantum theory explains the micro world. It would seem that the fundamentals behind the Standard Model would not be even considerable based off of these facts, but since gravity only has minute, if any, effect on particle physics, it can be excluded at this time from most of the calculation that are attributed to the Standard Model (Standard Package). The Standard Model offers scientist a new perspective on energy, mass, and the relationship of quantum entities, and “ties quantum mechanics and electromagnetism” together (Henry). The Standard Model shows that a lot of the particles that we know today are made up of even smaller subunits. It is almost like a Nesting Doll, as soon as it seems that the last doll is present, another one is found inside. This model encompasses twelve of these subatomically tiny pieces that fit together in many combinations, which make up everything in this universe. But, to acquire a better understanding of the Standard Model, scientist must first understand these fundamental building blocks of the universe (Standard Package). It is theorized that “everything in the Universe is found to be made from twelve basic building blocks called [the] fundamental particles”, which includes; “the six quarks…the 'up quark' and the 'down quark'…followed by the 'charm quark' and 'strange quark', then the 'top quark' and [the] 'bottom quark'” (Standard Package). Alone with the quarks are the six leptons; “the 'electron' and the 'electron-neutrino', the 'muon' and the 'muon-neutrino', and the 'tau' and the 'tau-neutrino,” and they are all governed by three of the four fundamental forces: the strong force, the weak force, and the electromagnetic force (Standard Package). Each of these three fundamental forces is paired with a characteristic boson (Fig. 1). The “gluon mediates with the strong force”, and it, in a sense, “glues quarks together.” The electromagnetic force is carried out by photons which transmit light. The weak force is represented by the W and Z boson; “they introduce different types of decays” (Inquiring Minds). The last carrier force in this foundation is the Higgs boson. The Higgs Field is made up of Higgs bosons, and it is this field that “interacts with other particles to give them mass” (Inquiring Minds). So in order for the standard model to be theoretically correct in its definition of mass, the Higgs boson has to be found.

The Higgs field is this great force that encompasses the universe. It is an abyss that interacts indefinitely with everything, but it would be quiet illogical to try to find the Higgs field as a whole. So, in order for physicists to prove that it really does exist, they must first find evidence of the Higgs Bosons that makes up this field. The Higgs Bosons have been elusive entities that has frustrated scientist for decades with their unwillingness to be found. It would seem that finding something that is so ubiquitous would be easy, yet the Higgs Boson remains elusive to even the keenest of minds. They exist everywhere, but they are so infinity small that trying to catch one to analyze, for even just the smallest amount of time, is proving difficult. This is where particle accelerators have come in handy. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory’s (Fermilab) Tevatron and the Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire’s (CERN) LHC have both been hard at work to find this elusive particle. These particle accelerators take particles and slam them together at speeds close to that of the speed of light, in the attempt to recreate the environment seen at the beginning of the Big Bang. When these collisions occur, scientists observe an eruption of subatomic particles, waves, and other interesting bits (Henry).  The Big Bang was the starting point for the creation of all particles, so scientists are trying to pin down the Higgs Boson that was created during this collision. They have been able to condense the search between “130 and 150 gi­ga­elec­tron volts, the un­its used to weigh subat­omic par­t­i­cles,” through the collaborated work on analyzing thousands of collisions. (Possible Hints). If it truly does exist, it is only a matter of before scientists finish shifting through their data and yell, “Eureka!” 
Higgs bosons are the force particle that will give all objects, particles, and strings their mass, or in some cases, explain why certain particles such as photons seem to lack it(Aczel, 150). The Higgs boson is the carrier force for the Higgs field. These bosons interact with everything, and it is these interactions that are “believed to endow particles with their masses” (Aczel, 150). As entities zoom through “space,” they interact with these bosons. The larger the entity; the more interaction will take place (Lincoln).  To get a better understanding of these interactions, image a room filled with scientists conversing with one another. The scientists are the Higgs Bosons, and their conversations are the field. Now image that Albert Einstein were to walk into the room. He would attract instant attention. As Einstein would walk across the room, he would gain mass in the sense that his admirers would interact with him, and slow down his progress with resistance. Whereas, if Hwang Woo-suk where to walk into a room, he would most likely be ignored, and his path undisrupted. (Aczel, 160). Einstein can be theorized as a large entity, such as a large Top Quark, while Hwang Woo-suk is like a massless photon (Lincoln). This is essentially the same thing that happens as other entities zoom through space (Fig. 2). The more a subatomic particle interact with the Higgs field; the larger it’s mass, and vice versa. If the Higgs is found, it will finally answer the question; why do we have mass, which is a question that has plagued scientist since the beginning of the Big Bang theory.

The Big Bang was the instantaneous moment in time when our universe took off. Infinitesimal time after it began, it saw the formation of quarks, lepton, and shortly after that, neutrons, and photons (Aczel, 149). Though, at the beginning, there was not any mass in the universe. So the question still remains---how did the universe obtain its mass? For the longest time, it was theorized that all of the mass in the universe had to be condensed at one single point Aczel, 148). It was impossible to understand a concept that theorized that all of the mass that is present in the universe was packed into an infinity small point. This concept was understood when it was looked at tin the sense way for the concept of sheer energy. The only problem with it was at the time there was not a formula that connected energy and mass. This concept, implies that “mass was somehow created some time after the Big Bang---after the immense initial explosion” ( Aczel, 148). It was not till the emergence of the quantum field theory that there became a way to mathematical show that mass could be created out of energy, but yet again, how (Aczel, 148)?
When it comes to the Higgs field, the how, is all about symmetry. This field, which is directly responsible for mass, was the result of the spontaneously broken symmetry that took place directly after the Big Bang (Aczel, 150).  In the young universe, it is theorized that the Higgs field had perfect symmetry, but as the “temperature in the universe dropper, the symmetry of the Higgs field was spontaneously broken, and the field had a particular “direction” in the abstract mathematical space in which the original symmetry has existed” (Aczel, 152). In other words, when the field lost its perfect symmetry, it caused movement in direction off its original starting point, in a sense. Picture a room full of basketball ball players. No one is moving. Then, out of the blue, someone shoot a hoop. This then causes a chain reaction, where everyone starts to take shots. The breaking of symmetry caused chain reactions that rapidly took over (Aczel, 153). The basketballs can even be theorized at the bosons that bounce of the surface and can give mass. Its movements and interactions are what caused the initial development of mass. While the Higgs field permeated space, its interactions, carried out by its carrier bosons, gave other entities their mass (Possible Hints). The key to finally unlocking the door on the origin of mass is dawning.
The Higgs boson contributes the force needed for the formation of mass on an object. Theoretically, matter only has mass because of its interaction with the Higgs. One of the most interesting things about these interactions is that, just because two particles are the same relative size, does not mean that they have the same mass (Lincoln). And, without the interaction of the Higgs, matter and mass would not exist, theoretically. The Top quark has more mass then an electron, but they are both relatively the same size (Lincoln). While size does play some role when it comes to how much interaction a subatomic particle has with the Higgs field, this is not the only fragment that has to be considered.   
The Higgs Boson is the final key that is needed to back up the Standard Model. The confirmation of existence of the Higgs Boson will have scientists bouncing off the walls. The discovery of this boson will confirm its field’s existence. Its presence will “neatly tie together elements of quantum mechanics and electromagnetism,” into a mathematical reality (Henry). It will prove that some particle have higher mass, not due to their size, but due to their interaction with the Higgs field. There is even some discussion that this field and its bosons may “even interact with other particles we have yet to discover, like the ones that may make up dark matter” (Henry). The discovery of the Higgs will bring about many changes in the way that scientists’ had previously viewed the universe. Its presence alone will give rise to a better understanding of the Big Bang theory, the Standard Model, and even on String theorys. 
While the Higgs boson could be the key to unlocking many of the problems and misgivings about mass and the Standard Model, it could just as likely not exist. The Higgs particle is only one small piece that is missing from the Standard Model. This Model does not encompass all four of the forces that are known to affect the universe (Standard Package). While gravity is not a strong force at the subatomic level, it is a force none the least. The main problem associated with the Standard Model is that it can’t elegantly connect the macro and micro worlds (Hawkings, 52). Antimatter and dark matter are not addressed in this theory as wall. (Possible Hints). It also lacks an explanation for the reason behind the Big Bang (Possible Hints). If the Higgs particle is never found, this is not the end of the world.  There are plenty of other models out there that can use the absence of the Higgs to prove their authenticity, and the superstring theory hopes to be able to use data form the collisions at the particle accelerates to prove this theory as well (Possible Hints).
The elusive Higgs Boson is giving science a run for its money. These bosons work together to form the intricate workings of the Higgs Field; a field that was first birthed moments after the Big Bang. Symmetry was destroyed in a fraction of a blink of an eye, and the field was let loose onto a forming universe. On its way to totally encompass the universe from its origin, it interacted with the different subatomic particle, and thus mass was created, and it is this creation of mass that is what has scientists extremely intrigued on this theory. The Higgs is being hunted by devoted scientist from around the world in the hope that it will finally answer fundamental questions. Is this the actual answer behind mass or just another theory? The Higgs boson and the standard model will both contribute greatly to the realm of the advancement of science if proven, and while the Standard Model is not the mother of all equations to answer every physical and chemical phenomena, it will go a long way to helping scientists understand the subatomic realm, and how mass relates to different subatomic particles and entities. 

Works Cited:
Aczel, Amir D. Present at the Creation: the Story of CERN and the Large Hadron Collider.
 New York: Crown, 2010. Print.
 Hawking, S. W., and Leonard Mlodinow. The Grand Design. New York: Bantam, 2010. Print.
Lincoln, Don. "What Is a Higgs Boson?" YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. FermiLab. Web. 01
Dec. 2011.
Henry, Alan. "What Is the Higgs Boson and Why Is It Important to Science?
ExtremeTech."Latest Technology News | Tech Blog | ExtremeTech. Ziff Davis, Aug.
2011. Web. 01 Dec. 2011.
"Inquiring Minds." Fermilab. U.S Department of Energy, 25 Mar. 2004.
 Web. 25 Nov. 2011.
"Possible Hints of Much-sought Mystery Particle Reported." The World Science. World Science,
17 Aug. 2011. Web. 20 Nov. 2011.

"The Standard Package." European Organization for Nuclear Research. CERN,
2008. Web. 25 Nov. 2011.

And for those of you who prefer visuals:
What the Higgs Boson is:

News Update, OMG we think we found it!: 

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