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CERN has just issued one of the biggest announcements in Science in the last 40 years. They have discovered what seems to be the Higgs boson particle: a particle predicted by the Standard Model in Physics. More spectacularly, the Higgs Boson is what makes matter possible. Without it, no matter can exist. We, humans, cannot exist.

In trying to get a better appreciation for the significance of this event, I wanted to understand what all this was about and I found an animation put together by Jorge Cham of PhD Comics. In it, Daniel Whiteson condenses this complex subject in what I found to be a good starting point for everyday people like me.

We probably would need to do more reading about the whole thing but there is enough here to astound us and pique our interest. For example, to make everyday matter, we only need 3 particles:

  1. The Electron
  2. The Up Quark
  3. The Down Quark

With Up Quarks and the Down Quarks, you can make Protons and Neutrons, the other components of atoms. So, we only need three to make up everything we know of that has mass. However -- here is the kicker -- Physicists have already discovered 12 other particles! How many more are there? What do they all do? What may we now know?

Published in Scientific Advances

As of June 2011, scientists at CERN have succeeded in trapping atoms of anti-hydrogen for more than 15 minutes: sufficient time to study them in a little more detail.

I can at least try to let you know what I understand, in broad strokes, why this news item is important and hope to impart my sense of appreciation of this milestone.

The reason why this is important is because it is believed that the universe came into existence from nothing. Studies in Quantum Physics indicate that out of nothing, certain particles can come into existence for brief moments. They come into existence, however, with the presence of their anti-thesis. So in effect, +1 (Matter) and -1 (Anti-Matter) is still equal to zero. Perhaps the same had been true with the Big Bang, the only difference between is that for a very, very small percentage of all the particles that existed during the Big Bang a few managed to remain in existence because they did not manage to come in contact with their anti-thesis before their anti-thesis disappeared. What has remained is the matter that makes up everything in the universe today.

Published in Scientific Advances