Word of the Week for the week of January 8, 2017

Higgs boson

[higz BOW-suhn]

Meaning & Usage

noun British physicist Peter Higgs wrote a landmark paper hypothesizing why elementary particles have mass, predicting the existence of a three-dimensional "field" that permeates space and drags on everything that trudges through it. Some particles have more trouble crossing through the field than others, and this results in them being heavier (i.e., more mass). For the Higgs field to exist, Higgs said, it must have a particle associated with it: the Higgs boson. Bosons are the particles that communicate the forces of the universe, like photons, which communicate electromagnetic force. The Higgs boson communicates the forces of the Higgs field, essentially giving other particles their mass.

I wonder whether Billy and I can figure it out using current science and technology—like the whole Higgs boson thing, finding particles that travel faster than light. Like Star Trek for reals.


In a 1964 paper, British physicist Peter Higgs predicted a field that permeates all of space and interacts with matter, sort of like a fish swimming through water. In 2013, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, along with a coauthor, the Belgian physicist Francois Englert, "for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN's Large Hadron Collider."

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