June 20, 2012, 10:34 AM — Has the God particle been spotted?
It has yet to be confirmed from the source, but Wired and the New York Times are tentatively predicting the coterie of physicists who gathered in Switzerland this week will confirm a December experiment at the Large Hadron Collider did, indeed, spot the elusive, possibly apocryphal Higgs boson .
Nicknamed the "god particle" for its theoretical role as the particle that makes it possible for all the other particles in the quantum pantheon to have mass, the Higgs represents the key piece of evidence that it is possible to create a Unified Field Theory that describes the relationship among all four major natural forces: Electromagnetism, strong nuclear forces, weak nuclear forces and gravity.
The Standard Model of the universe tries to define what matter is and why it behaves as it does. To do so it assumes all matter is made up of combinations of 12 particles that confuse physicists with their odd behavior and confuse civilians with their ephemeral nature and odd names (e.g. quarks come in the varieties: up, down, charm, strange, top and bottom).
Bosons, under the Standard Model theory, are responsible for transferring forces from one particle to another. The Higgs boson would explain why photons and have no mass while other subatomic particles are far heavier than they should be.
Here, from the National Science Foundation-funded Exploratorium is the simplest explanation I've seen of what the Higgs is and what it's expected to do:
"Electromagnetism describes how particles interact with photons, tiny packets of electromagnetic radiation. In a similar way, the weak force describes how two other entities, the W and Z particles, interact with electrons, quarks, neutrinos and others. There is one very important difference between these two interactions: photons have no mass, while the masses of W and Z are huge. In fact, they are some of the most massive particles known.