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Hector Mancini, Professor of Physics and Applied Mathematics

The God particle

The press office of CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research research , has just announced the experimental confirmation of the existence of the "Higgs boson" better known to the public as "the God particle".

Sat, 26 Jan 2013 00:50:00 +0000 Published in Diario de Navarra, Las Provincias, Diario Sur, Hoy

The press office of CERN - European Organization for Nuclear research , has just announced the experimental confirmation of the existence of the "Higgs boson" better known to the public as "the God particle".

The Higgs boson was the last missing piece to be located for fill in the picture of elementary particles included in the standard model of particle physics, the model that relates the fundamental interactions between the elementary particles that make up the whole subject. Therefore, confirming or ruling out its existence has been one of the fundamental tasks carried out at the famous "Large Hadron Collider (LHC)", an accelerator ring located 100 m deep on the border between France and Switzerland, near Geneva airport.

The news was published with great caution by the scientific body, pointing out that two of its scientific projects have located a new particle compatible with the "Higgs boson", but stressing that more research is needed to determine it unequivocally. They therefore point out a clear distinction between the scientific meaning of "existence" and "demonstration". Its importance lies in the fact that rather than reaching a final goal , proving the existence of the Higgs boson, it is the beginning of a new stage that promises many further developments.

We know that all the subject in the universe is made up of atoms, which in turn have a massive nucleus with a positive electric charge, surrounded by a cloud of moving electrons. The atom forms a structure that is held together by electromagnetic forces, one of the fundamental forces of nature. This electromagnetic force has theoretically infinite range and is carried by particles called photons. We know that by this means we get the light from the stars or electricity to our homes and that this force is the manager of all the molecular Structures that form the macroscopic bodies.

If only this force existed, the nucleus of an atom would be unstable, it would have to explode because of the proximity between the protons. But in the nucleus act other short-range forces that are able to neutralize the electromagnetic repulsion and are known as "strong nuclear", which depends on a property called "color charge" (which has nothing to do with the normal use of the word "color") and "weak nuclear", which governs the processes of energy generation in the stars.

The protons and neutrons of the nucleus are composed of smaller particles called "quarks", bound together by other particles called "gluons", responsible for carrying the Strong Nuclear Force. The particles that carry the Weak Nuclear Force are particles called W and Z bosons, which, unlike photons, have mass. To imagine two interacting particles one can consider two people passing a heavy ball to each other, which would be the force particle. If the ball is heavier, the range of interaction is shorter.

The finding of the W and Z particles merited a award Nobel Prize for CERN in the 1980s, but the mechanism that gives rise to their mass had not previously been identified. This is where the Higgs mechanism comes in. It is the simplest model to account for the difference in mass between photons (which are also bosons) and the W and Z bosons. Physicists consider the Higgs boson as the core topic to understand the fundamental structure of the subject because it attributes mass to all others, and to this property it owes its name "God particle".

It is difficult to discuss about the standard model without the mathematical precisions that are required, and we can not dwell much on this topic in such a reduced space. Nor financial aid that quantum mechanics has nothing to do with "common sense" or "intuition".

However, a great public interest has been unleashed by this news, in spite of the obvious complexity of topic and its scarce relation with daily life, an interest that is probably linked to the name of "God particle". The relationship that the theory has with respect to the Big-Bang and the evolution of the subject in the Universe, make us all suspect, even without understanding the details, that these conclusions have to do with our own origin.