People interested in PHYSICS?!
Apparently it happens sometimes. You’ve probably heard about the huge media buzz that was formed around the field of physics recently, upon the detection of a subatomic particle that has the behavioral attributes of the Higgs boson, a.k.a. “the God particle”. This discovery, made in Switzerland at the large hadron collider on July 4th 2012, is huge for mankind and our understanding of the universe and how it works. I think everyone should have a basic understanding of the structure of the universe. It’s both important and beautiful. Don’t believe me? Read on.
The idea of how the universe is built is a pretty easy one to simplify, but extremely difficult to comprehend at first. I will give you the basics, so try to stick with me here. In order to simplify things as much as possible, I’ll divide my explanation into three parts: Matter, Force and Bosons. I know, it sounds pretty heavy. It’s not, It’s actually fascinating and abstract and beautiful.
As you probably already know, all matter is made of particles. For quite a long time atoms were believed to be the most basic (smallest) particle in the universe, but then scientists learned that atoms are made of protons, neutrons and electrons. Today we know that there are twelve basic particles of matter, six quarks and six leptons, which together make subatomic particles that make atoms that make all matter. These are the blocks from which the universe is built. I won’t elaborate on these because it’s really insignificant for a basic understanding. I don’t want to over complicate unnecessary things because it would turn this article into an extremely long book. This isn’t Wikipedia, I want to try to keep this interesting. And You are now one out of three steps to an understanding of the god particle!
There are four forces that act in the universe, four and four alone. Any physical interaction between any number of things can be described using these four forces: gravity, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force.
Gravity is a force that works between all matters that have mass. This means that if you have mass, you have a gravitational field around you. Objects with large mass have a strong gravitational field (like our sun) and objects with small mass have a weak gravitational field (like a human being – That’s right, you have a gravitational field of your own). Gravity has no distance limit and it would work even between the lightest of particles at the farthest of distances. Gravity is unique because it only works one way – it always attracts and never repels.
Electromagnetism is a force that works between particles with electrical charges. If you heard of the phrase “opposites attract”, this is its origin. Particles with opposite charges are attracted towards one another, and particles with similar charges are repelled from one another. This force, like gravity, is also?not limited by distance. (Physics/biology fun fact – everything visible to the human eye is in fact emissions of electromagnetic waves of lengths within a certain spectrum! That spectrum is called “The Spectrum of Visible Light” and it’s a very small part of the full electromagnetic spectrum)
The strong nuclear force
The strong nuclear force is a short ranged force that binds together the protons and neutrons within the nucleus of an atom. It’s called the strong force because it keeps the protons from repelling each other, and thereby keeping the atom nucleus stable (all protons have positive electronic charges, so they’re naturally repelled from each other). This means that in its range of effect, the strong nuclear force is stronger than the electromagnetic force.
The weak nuclear force
is another short ranged force. Basically it is so short ranged; you could say it works within subatomic particles. The weak force meditates beta decay ??the process of a subatomic particle decomposing into other subatomic particles. For example, it could emit an electron and an antineutrino out of a neutron, turning it into a proton. If you don’t understand this description, simply ignore it. “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” anyway. If you still want to understand, feel free to ask me. Btw, That was step two of three towards understanding the god particle. Bare with me just a little more, the next part is the fun part where we’ll tie it all together.
Here’s the fun part – An apple fell on Sir Isaac Newton’s head. You’ve heard that one before, right? That’s how he discovered gravity, or at least that’s how the myth says it happened. So what pulled the apple down?
If you know your basic physics, you’re probably thinking that it’s the earth’s gravitational field. You have the right answer, but it’s a partial right answer, and here’s why: Say you’re walking your dog, and the dog sees a squirrel and tries to chase it. You tug?on the leash to pull the dog closer to you. It would be correct to describe this scenario as you pulling the dog, just like it would be correct to describe the earth’s gravity as pulling the apple, but it’s only partially correct because you don’t account for the leash. In this metaphor, your pull stands for force, the dog stands for matter and guess what the leash stands for?
Bosons are basic particles that act as the universe’s leash. There are five types of bosons we are aware of: Photons carry the electromagnetic force, gluons carry the strong nuclear force, the emission and absorption of W and Z bosons generate the weak nuclear force and of course there’s the Higgs boson, a.k.a “The god particle”, which carries mass. Bosons are the link between matter and force. They attach themselves to basic particles (quarks and leptons) to compose bigger particles (like protons and electrons) which are effected by the four forces of nature. To demonstrate, let’s look at an average neutron. neutrons are made of three quarks. Normally, they are effected by gravity (they have mass) and the strong nuclear force (they dwell within the nucleus of atoms). this means that apart from the three quarks, there are also bosons in the neutron’s composition. Since we know which forces work on the neutron, we can?deduce that which bosons are also present in its composition, in this case, Higgs bosons (gravity) and Gluons (strong nuclear force).
The God Particle
The god particle attaches itself to other basic particles, and thereby gives them the property of mass.? It’s that simple ??if you have the god particle in your composition, you’re massive to some extent, just like if you have photons in your composition, you’re electromagnetic to some extent! Mass is what makes anything into matter. Without the god particle, there would be no mass, and therefore no matter. Since all material existence is dependent on the presence of the Higgs boson, it was controversially nicknamed “The God Particle”.
We already learned that everything that has mass also has a gravitational field. Now imagine this: There’s a field spread all across the universe, end to end, It’s everywhere around you. This is a field that interacts with everything that has mass, which means gravity is created within this field. This is known as the “Higgs field”. The Higgs boson is the particle that interacts with this field.
Personally I find this theory beautiful. You have 6 leptons, 6 quarks and 4 bosons that make all matter, and you have 4 forces acting between them. To me this breaks existence itself into such basic building blocks, it’s almost alchemy.
On Pi day (march 14th), 2013, it was confirmed that the particle which was observed at CERN was in fact, the Higgs boson. The only uncertainty remaining is whether it was the standard model Higgs boson, or some exotic form of it. Most scientists agree that it was the standard model Higgs boson, but that remains to be proven.
I hope this article quenched your thirst for knowledge, and I hope it was simple enough to understand even without any former knowledge of physics. I enjoyed writing it and I always welcome reader’s feedback (As long as you keep religion out of it. It’s an insult to your and my intelligence, and to the hard work that was put into researching this beautiful theory and writing this article)
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Itay “SHPECK” Rijensky