The Hunt for the most elusive particle is on...
Sometime, in the course of next few weeks an elite group of scientists and engineers are going to assemble in a control room at the Large Hadron Collider, world’s largest particle accelerator. They will feed a series of directives into their computers that will split trillions of protons into two beams coruscating in opposite directions inside an oval tunnel, buried deep beneath the earth.
Finally when this two opposing beam’s velocity nearly approaches that of light they will collide with one another with such quantum of force that the collision will produce tiny fireballs which will simulate in miniature the state, right after Big Bang. Scientists are fervently hoping that what eventually emerges from those fireballs will finally cap of a 50 year old quest – a quest in search of the Higs particle, often referred as the God particle outside the scientific community, which will confirm one of the most comprehensive model of physics pertaining to particles and forces that created them. An irrefutable proof Higgs’ existence will bring an end to the search for the most elusive particle of all. However, if this experiment fails to substantiate the particles presence, all the known theories of subatomic physics will be under immense scrutiny.
However there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic as scientists, involved in this project are of the firm opinion that the Higgs will be found sooner rather than later. The telltale evidence of its presence was already witnessed last December and if everything goes according to plan the Higgs will soon be run to ground.
In the formative days of particle physics, things were less complicated. An atom was deemed to be made up of a nucleus consisting of protons and neutrons with at least one electron buzzing around it. Things started getting more complicated in the 60’s when the scientists started splitting protons and neutrons into even smaller quantities, dubbed as quarks. The particle’s discovery lent credence to the widespread notion that the forces that acted on atoms required another set of particles – referred as the bosons. Electromagnetic forces bond atoms into molecules and ultimately into planets and people.
Increasingly , physicist worldwide posited that in the very earliest of moments ,right after big bang the particles that emerged were bereft of any mass. Such a theory for all intents and purpose, seemed counterintuitive as we all know that every particle apart from photons, has discernible mass. So the obvious question that arose was –what made them change? Or how were these particles able to obtain mass?
In 1964, a group of theorist spearheaded by the Scottish theorist Peter Higgs postulated that the entire universe is enveloped by an invisible all pervasive force field that consists of Higgs boson particles. When particles like electrons and protons buzz in and around these field they interact and attract these boson particles. These boson particles will ultimately cluster around it to lend it mass.
Consider the Higg’s field as a large party, where little known guests (read particles) can pass by without causing any ripple. However distinguished invitees will always be surrounded by a large group of people (read Higgs boson particle)s. The Higgs field works somewhat similarly. Certain particles will attract larger clusters of boson particles and will have more mass.
So the confirmation of Higgs' particle may not shed light on the entire machination of the Universe, but it will definitely bridge a gaping hole that has existed in the Standard Model of Physics for the last 50 years or so.