Helping hunt for the Higgs

Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 14:50 in Physics & Chemistry

What, exactly, is a Higgs boson? Fundamentally speaking, explained Melissa Franklin, Physics Department chair and Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics, the Higgs boson is a subatomic particle, one of more than a dozen such particles, including quarks, electrons, muons, and neutrinos. This particle, however, is unique because its discovery acts as confirmation of the existence of the Higgs field. An invisible area, similar to the electromagnetic field, that permeates all of space, the Higgs field explains how the elementary particles that form the building blocks of all matter have mass. The field works by imparting mass to particles as they move through it. Because some particles move through the field very quickly, they take on less mass. Others, which move more slowly, take on more. “We believe it is there, but we don’t know for sure that there is a Higgs field,” Franklin explained. “Now that we’ve identified what we believe is a Higgs...

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