It’s Not a Drug and It’s Not Magic: For any physicist, science writer or educator, probably the toughest concept to explain to their mom this summer has got to be the Higgs boson. After all, it’s not like an astronomical discovery where there’s a photograph of a new celestial body and an excited astronomer explaining why alien planets are so cool.
Wednesday’s announcement about the discovery of the Higgs boson — wait… no, the discovery of a particle that acts like the Higgs boson — isn’t an easy thing to understand. First you need a general grasp of particle physics, and then you need to know what the Standard Model is. Then, you need to have an idea of why the Large Hadron Collider is so awesome and then, if you’re feeling brave, you need to understand some statistics, Higgs decay modes and throw in some sigmas too.
But what the heck does the Higgs boson do? The short answer: It mediates the Higgs field that ultimately endows all matter in the Universe with mass.