The Higgs boson is a particle theorized in 1960 by Peter Higgs and discovered in 2013 at the LHC, the large particle accelerator.
Around 1970, physicists realized that electrical and magnetic phenomena, the production of electromagnetic waves and even some types of radioactive decay were all different manifestations of a single type of force, called the electroweak force – a unification between two fundamental forces of nature: the weak nuclear force and the electromagnetic force.
Over several years of research and experiments, researchers realized that some seemingly different phenomena were produced by the same type of fundamental force , only that type of force (the electroweak force ) behaved inhomogeneously for different energy levels.
Physicists realized that at high energy levels it was possible to distinguish electrical phenomena from phenomena related to the weak nuclear force. With this, they theorized that during the emergence of the Universe , when temperatures were high enough (10 15 K), the electromagnetic force and the weak nuclear force combined, giving rise to the electroweak force. However, soon after, with the cooling of the Universe, these two forces became distinguishable again, despite sharing the same origin.
The explanation of how the unification between the weak nuclear force and the electromagnetic force occurs is extremely complex and was the reason why physicists Sheldon Glashow, Abdus Salam and Steven Weinberg were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979.
After the theoretical unification between the two fundamental forces, some doubts emerged and one of them was very unsettling. This question concerned how and why some bosons, such as the W and Z bosons, which measure the weak nuclear force – particles that should have no mass, have large measures of mass – the physicists’ question was: where could it have come from? this dough?
The answer to the mass of bosons came with the Higgs Mechanism , proposed by theoretical physicist Peter Higgs. Higgs proposed the existence of a field that appeared shortly after the cooling of the Universe, starting to permeate all of space. The effect of this field is to interact with bosons (with the exception of photons), producing spontaneous symmetry breaks in high energy regimes.
In other words, the Higgs field affects some quantum probabilities: it changes the “rules” that govern high-energy bosons. The result of the interaction of these particles with the Higgs field is that they gain mass.
The Higgs mechanism shows that quarks interact strongly with Higgs bosons, so they are very massive.
Until recently, the existence of the Higgs boson (the physical manifestation of the Higgs field) was a theoretical speculation, however, through experiments carried out at the LHC ( Large Hadrons Collider ), the largest particle accelerator in the world, it was possible to detect particles compatible with the description of the Higgs boson.
In 2013, physicists Peter Higgs and François Englert were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their contributions to understanding the mechanism that causes some subatomic particles to have mass.
Higgs Boson: The “God Particle”
The Higgs boson is popularly known as the “ God particle” . This name originates from a very popular book, written in 1993, called “God Particle”, written by physicist Leon Lederman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1998.
Despite its popularity, some physicists, including Petter Higgs himself, are uncomfortable with the name and the possible connotations that can be attributed to his theory, being considered a bit sensationalist.
How important is the Higgs boson to the origin of the Universe?
Higgs field theory has allowed us to change the way we understand the Universe. Today, it is believed that not even empty space is completely empty, as all space is permeated by a “sea” of Higgs bosons and other particles.
Furthermore, the observation of the existence of Higgs bosons reinforces the theory that at some point in its existence the Universe was already extremely hot and dense, due to the high energy required for the direct observation of these particles.
Peter Higgs (1929) is a British theoretical physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2013, together with François Englert, for explaining the Higgs mechanism. In 1960, Peter Higgs proposed the existence of a field responsible for the breaking of symmetry in the electroweak theory, reason for the appearance of mass in particles that should be “virtual”, that is, they should not have mass.
The works of Peter Higgs allowed physicists to have a different look at the Standard Model of Particle Physics, in this way, new knowledge and more questions should arise over the next decades due to the proof of the existence of Higgs bosons.
Higgs boson summary
- For the Higgs mechanism, elementary particles arise from excitations of the fields corresponding to the fundamental forces of nature, including the Higgs boson itself.
- The different fields existing in nature can interact with each other.
- Some types of fields, such as the electroweak field, can interact with the Higgs field through spontaneous symmetry breaking. In this process, particles that should not have mass, such as the W and Z bosons, gain mass.
- The Standard Model of Particle Physics had difficulty explaining why some elementary particles have mass. This difficulty was solved after explaining and proving the Higgs mechanism.
- Quarks interact strongly with Higgs bosons, causing them to have large masses, electrons, in turn, interact weakly with Higgs bosons, so they have small masses.
- Photons don’t interact with Higgs bosons, so they have no mass.