Scientists are on the verge of determining the existence of the Higgs boson. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland finally has enough data to explore its existence, and scientists believe that they may have come fairly close to finding it. But what is the particle?
The Higgs boson is a hypothetical elementary particle explained by Peter Higgs in 1964 to explain how particles get their masses.
Higgs proposed that the whole of space is permeated by a field similar to the electromagnetic field. This field is believed to have activated a fraction of a second after the Big Bang, which enabled previously weightless particles to slow down, come together, and begin to form all of the atoms and molecules that make up the Universe as we know it.
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According to Roger Cashmore, at the University of Oxford:
As particles move through space, they travel through this field, and if they interact with it, they acquire what appears to be mass. This is similar to the action of viscous forces felt by particles moving through any thick liquid. the larger the interaction of the particles with the field, the more mass they appear to have. Thus the existence of this field is essential in Higgs' hypothesis for the production of the mass of particles.
If that didn't necessarily make sense, the BBC explains it as well:
The Higgs mechanism proposes that there is a field permeating the Universe—the Higgs field—that allows particles to obtain their mass. Interactions with the field—with the Higgs bosons that come from it—are purported to give particles mass. This is not unlike a field of snow, in which trudging through impedes progress; your shoes interacting with snow particles slows you down.
The Higgs boson is believed to give all other particles mass, but we still can't predict how much the Higgs itself weighs.
PBS NOVA explains how Peter Higgs arrived at his theory: