What the Higgs …?

Event display showing particle tracks from a collision as seen by the CMS experiment

Image source:CERN

The (probable) confirmation of the existence of the “Higgs boson” at CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire  i.e. European Council for Nuclear Research) near Geneva, has been all over the news this week. But I reckon most people don’t really know what it is.  Here’s a couple of attempts to explain it in layman’s terms,

one from Jonathon Amos at the BBC using ping pong balls and sugar

another from Don Lincoln, a nuclear physicist from Fermilab in the USA

a slightly more technical explanation by one of the boffins at CERN, with equations written on his tee shirt,

And for some alternative approaches to explaining what it is, see here.

As someone who studied chemistry, my view of particle physics is that it is seriously weird. Things are both particles and not particles, they can be in two places at the same time and it’s impossible to know both where they are and how fast they are moving. Everything is about probabilities, so the uncertainty about whether CERN have actually discovered the darn thing or not is par for the course!