The search for the Higgs bosonThe Higgs boson discovery this summer made plenty of headlines, and deservingly so. It plays a vital role in the Standard Model (SM) of physics by giving all other elementary particles mass – the property describing an object’s resistance to acceleration – or simply “weight” in layman’s terms. The Higgs bosons constitute an epynomous field that penetrates the entire Universe, filling even the emptiest of spaces with non-zero energy. By definition, all massive elementary particles interact with this field. Detection of that field’s agent would confirm SM and greatly affect our understanding of the Universe.

That’s the dry scientific truth and it could seem a bit boring. You’ve likely heard of the boson under a different, much more exciting name – The God Particle. There may be a hint of truth to that name as well – after all, all objects we deal with every day have mass, and according to SM their mass is due to the invisible Higgs field permeating the entire Universe. It can certainly seem like the scientific version of a divine omnipresent entity.

However, physicists dislike the term for its inappropriate sensationalism. Moreover, the original nickname of the Higgs boson is actually “The Goddamn Particle”, so named by Leon Lederman in 1993 for being notoriously difficult to detect since it decays almost instantaneously. It was theoretically predicted almost fifty years ago and has been falsely “detected” many times ever since – until this summer. The theoretic discovery was made by a group of seven physicists led by Peter Higgs himself, who also happens to dislike the particle’s nickname, citing possible controversy among religious people.

Since any controversy is subjective, let us appeal to the objective facts instead. Higgs boson was predicted theoretically – it simply needs to exist to make SD consistent – and ever since its discovery in 1964 physicists have been looking for concrete experimental evidence of that existence. Same goes for another physics phenomenon that gathered much publicity: dark matter.

Predicted by Jan Oort in 1932, dark matter makes up to 84% of the Universe yet is invisible because it doesn’t interact with electromagnetic radiation such as light. Just think about it: more than four fifths of the Universe is hidden from us, and all evidence for that great hidden mass is indirect, via calculations of orbits, velocities and accelerations of planets, stars and galaxies! We don’t even now what dark matter is made of – could it be an endless array of axions, a hypothetical elementary particle? Or maybe relatively few yet terrifying objects known as black holes, invisible and deadly rips of the time-space continuum? It has been noted that the term “dark matter” is a humble admission of our ignorance, quite like medieval maps having huge areas marked as “terra incognita” on our planet.

Calling the Higgs boson “The God Particle” is therefore not just misleading, it is ignorant. We are miles, even light years away from understanding the Universe and have no right to call this admittedly important particle something divine. The search for God continues: scientists and theists just go about it very differently and call the subject of that search very different names. We don’t know if we shall ever find what we are looking for, but we do know that we are not even close yet.