eli5: what is a god particle?


eli5: what is a god particle?

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It is a bad name for the Higgs boson that in the standard model of physics explains how some particles have mass.

The name God particle is from a book published in 1993, the idea of the particles in a 1964 paper and was confirmed in 2013. The name god particle is not endorsed by many scientists including Peter Higgs that it is named after. You can read more about the name at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higgs_boson#Naming

It is the Higgs Boson.
Physicist Leon M. Lederman gave it that nick name.
He explained why:
>This boson is so central to the state of physics today, so crucial to our final understanding of the structure of matter, yet so elusive, that I have given it a nickname: the God Particle. Why God Particle? Two reasons. One, the publisher wouldn’t let us call it the Goddamn Particle, though that might be a more appropriate title, given its villainous nature and the expense it is causing. And two, there is a connection, of sorts, to another book, a much older one…

And by the older book he was referring to the Bible’s Book of Genesis.

The “god particle” was sort of a pop-science term given to the Higgs Boson. The Higgs Boson is an elementary particle (meaning it is not made up of smaller particles) in the Standard Model (our best current model for describing elementary particles).

This isn’t super ELI5, but in the Standard Model, elementary particles aren’t really objects like tiny balls. Instead, it’s more like space is filled with all these different fields with different properties, and the particles are “excitations” of that field (sort of points of high energy). So a photon is an excitation of the electromagnetic field.

Back in the 50s, a guy named Higgs and his colleagues proposed a way to explain why some particles have mass and others don’t. He described a field (later called the Higgs field) which some particles interact with, gaining mass. If the field existed though, then there should be a particle associated with it — just like with the photon and the electromagnetic field. The Higgs Boson was pretty elusive though, because it very quickly decays into other particles. It took until 2013 for CERN to announce that they had actually measured its existence experimentally in the Large Hadron Energy Collider.

I believe the idea behind the nickname “god particle” has to do with its role in creating mass from none, and therefore its role in creating the physical universe as we know it.

The “God Particle” was a nickname given to the Higgs Boson, the particle responsible for giving things mass. It was believed that when this particle was fibally observed experimentally, it would fill in the holes in standard physics, unify quantum and relativistic explanations of gravity (potentially in terms of the other three forces), and finally give physics its Grand Unified Theory.

That didn’t wind up happening. We found the Higgs Boson, but it fell short of the predictions in some key ways, leaving some areas of physics unexplained and a Grand Unified Theory still out of reach. So the term “God Particle” kind of fell out of favor.