Remember, that an object's mass is basically how heavy it is. All of the tangible things in the universe some mass, even gases.
Particles of energy however, like photons (the basic unit of light) do not have mass.
Physicists have known for a very long time that certain particles, like atoms, have masses assigned to them.
Peter Higgs theorized that moments after the Big Bang, subatomic particles (smaller than atoms themselves) passed through this field (now called the Higgs Field) and gained mass.
Furthermore, according to an article on topsecretwriters.com, Higgs also postulated that if this field could be disturbed with enough energy, a particle would be produced.
Sounds easy right? Well, not really.
The problem with this particle, called the Higgs boson, is that it has no spin, no charge, and no color. This means it is very hard to detect.
To make matters worse, the particle was also theorized to exist for only a trillionth of a second after it becomes detectable!
Needless to say, the 'God Particle' is not easy to find.
How was the Higgs boson detected?
The purpose of this machine was to accelerate protons (prospectively charged parts of the atom) to near the speed of light (186,000 miles-per-second) around a ring 3.9 miles in circumference.
Why do this, you ask?
To smash them into other protons moving at the same speed head on of course!
All joking aside, the point of doing these incredibly expensive experiments is to look at the aftermath of such a collision and study it for many reasons.
Among these reasons was to find evidence of the Higgs boson.
Unfortunately, in 2011, the Tevatron was shut down because the Higgs was never found.
The LHC cost about 10 billion dollars to build and has a circumference of about 17 miles, according to livescience.com.
The LHC requires 180 million watts of power to run and has the capability of accelerating particles with more energy and at higher speeds than the Tevatron.
In fact the particles are moving within the LHC so fast, that they complete 11,000 circuits of the 17 mile ring every second!
After the collisions in the LHC occur, a detector weighing 7,000 metric tons records data and is sent to computers so that 2,900 scientists can analyze the data.
The LHC has been running since 2008 without any evidence of the Higgs.
Last week, however, scientists at CERN reported that a particle with a mass of approximately 125-126 gigaelectron volts (the unit used to describe the mass of a single proton) at a sigma 5 significance level.
This level of certainty is like saying that there is only a 1 in 3.5 million chance that the data is false.
What is really interesting about this data is that, if true, it would mean that the Higgs boson is about 125 times more massive than that of a proton.
According to an article on geo.tv, this would mean that the Higgs is the largest particle known to exist. I personally find it interesting that the shortest-living, most elusive particle known to man is also the heaviest.
What does this discovery mean?
This is a very complicated question to answer.
The problem with called the Higgs boson the 'God Particle' is that it implies some profound, world-changing and revolutionary effect.
War, disease, famine, racism, poverty and discrimination are not going magically cease to exist and we aren't going to start running through fields or traversing the unending expanses of space and time.
Sorry to sound cynical, but the point I'm trying to make is that we still have a lot to do as far as treating each other with respect and compassion.
Another point I want to make is that discovering the Higgs particle has nothing to do with religion or spirituality.
I think the reason the Higgs has been called the 'God Particle' is because it will in some way give us a better understanding of what happened at the moment of the Big Bang, or what some like to call “creation.”
This discovery will not bring us closer to understanding God or proving or disproving the existence of God.
However, I do believe, in some respect, that this discovery, like all other, will bring us (humanity) closer together as a global community.
Discovery is something that we all own – each and every one of us. In that way, I do feel that is breakthrough is a small start to something much greater.
On a more down-to-Earth approach, here are some things that will change after the discovery of the Higgs, according to livescience.com:
The origin of mass itself – This may seem like a “duh” kind of discovery, but understanding how particles gain mass connects many aspects of particle physics. If you don't think particle physics are important, you may want to re-think your position. Particle physics is basically the science that underlies every single mechanism in the universe.
Completing the Standard Model – The standard model is basically a huge puzzle that had one piece missing from it – the Higgs boson. By completing the Standard Model, we will be closer to understanding gravity (one of the most poorly understood mechanisms in all of science) and dark energy and dark matter. Dark energy and dark matter are though to comprise of about 90% of the universe, and we have no idea what it is or how to detect it.
Unification of the electromagnetic and the weak nuclear forces – The weak force basically is what is responsible for readioactive decay and the electromagnetic force governs all electric and magnetic interactions in the universe. By finding the elusive Higgs, scientists may now be able to begin to unify these two forces into an “electroweak force.” This unification will lead to a better understanding of many of the mechanisms we observe in the universe.
Supersymmetry – Basically, supersymmetry postulates that every known particle in the universe as a partner with slightly different characteristic. The discover of the Higgs could help or hurt this theory. It was postulated that if the Higgs had a low mass, then this would bolster this theory. But since the Higgs has a very high mass, it may mean curtains for supersymmetry. It is important to understand that getting rid of a theory in science is just as important as accepting one.
Validating the cost of the LHC – Probably the most important circumstance of finding the Higgs is that it warrants spending 10 billion dollars. Forward as it may be, 10 billion bucks is a lot of money and having a stupendous result such as finding the Higgs probably makes investors, tax-payers, and even the scientists breath a little easier.
I understand that a lot of these implication may seem a little far-fetched and unimportant.
I know what you are thinking, “How will unified electromagnetism and the weak nuclear force improve my life in any way?”
The fact is, this discovery will impact your life. It may not be today, but in your lifetime, there is a good chance that scientific progress in the medical field, and/or many other industries, will be a direct result of discovering the Higgs.
Remember, scientific progress is a totally piecemeal process with inspiration coming from many fields, even unrelated ones.
Think about it!