This month, scientists around the world were in a frenzy of excitement.
Well, as exciting as scientists can be, mind you.
They smiled a lot and had to get out of the lab to chat with reporters.
It was a real barn burner.
But, it wasn’t because the summer collection of lab coats was finally out, but rather because the brains working at the biggest atom smasher in the world (CERN) announced they might have found the elusive “God particle.”
The name itself kinda makes you want to hang your jaw with awe, right?… the GOD particle! It almost sounds like they found a piece of the big guy himself… although a particle would be a pretty small piece, sorta like God’s pocket lint or dandruff.
But — being science-related — it has nothing to do with an actual deity, the condition of his (or her) scalp, or what he may or may not have in his pockets.
Named after Peter Higgs, the Higgs boson particle (or God particle if you’re a news editor who wants a splashy headline) was suggested in 1964 as a method to explain why particles have mass.
Wait, wait… don’t nod off. This is interesting stuff.
Proving the existence of this particle could help answer fundamental questions about the Big Bang Theory… the explosion that created the universe, not the popular TV sitcom about the nerdy scientists trying to figure out the answers to the universe and the blonde next door.
The theory is that in the beginning, everything was so hot that all the stuff we’re made of — atoms, electrons, protons — couldn’t have existed, so there was possibly a particle or particles that helped make it all happen.
That’s Higgs’s “God” particle.
OK, so what does that mean for you, the average Joe or Jane that couldn’t give a rat’s bum about particle physics or quantum mechanics?
Well, confirming the existence of this particle represents a crossroads in science when great leaps forward are made in technology and our understanding of the universe.
Sure, they still have to test and re-test, and then re-test the tested data and then pass it off to someone else to verify. But this is the end of a 30-year journey, and even if it isn’t the fabled Higgs boson (which lots of lab-coated dudes have slyly told media “it is”), it is definitely a brand new particle that has been discovered… and that is exciting.
It will change physics textbooks, provoke new radical experiments and eventually lead to applications into everyday life.
Hey, it was CERN research that eventually brought us the Internet, so I trust these guys have my geeky interests at heart.
So while it may not yield any immediate impacts on your life, the discovery does have the potential to lead to things like better medicine, longer lives and — fingers crossed here — an even more awesome iPhone or immersive video gaming experience.