The search is on for the Higgs boson, and it seems likely that soon we'll find this mysterious particle that creates matter in the universe. But what if we don't? In this week's "Ask a Physicist," we'll find out.
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The Higgs boson has the unique distinction of being the only particle in our standard model of particle physics that we haven't yet discovered. We may be on the verge of detecting it in the next few years, and yet, for some reason, almost nobody has asked anything about it, even though I've been chomping at the bit to write about it.
Luckily, a former student of mine, Bailey McCreery, decided that he just needed to know:
If the Higgs boson is found to exist, how would it change the way we understand mass? If it's not found, where will that leave us?
This is a big, fairly complicated question. To answer it, I'm going to have to explain what the Higgs actually does, and why we expect to find it. If you want, you can content yourself with saying, "The Higgs particle gives other particles mass," and skip to the last section, and I won't think any the worse of you. Others might, but I won't.