Y! Big Story: Readers explain Higgs boson

Vera H-C Chan
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Verifying at Level 5 sigma signal at around 125 GeV just might not be close enough.

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The announcement of a possible Higgs boson discovery spread joy and bemusement. Just when some of us had given up on figuring this out, skeptics are now warning about a God Particle impostor. No matter. Most of us couldn't understand this alleged subatomic particle.

OK, fine, I'm speaking for myself. Here now, explanations from people who always know better: Yahoo! commenters, who weighed in on "In search of a simple explanation of Higgs boson, aka the God Particle." (Not all replies in a conversation chain have been included. Comments have not been edited, except for addition of quotation marks.)

Short & sweet

Zak • Arvada, Colo: "Shortest explanation: it's what gives everything mass."

Anthony • Washington, District of Columbia: "Very simply, its a field of particles which, by collision with other particles, give them the effect of mass."

Actuality: "The Higgs-Boson doesn't give matter it's mass. It's just a leftover of the Higgs Mechanism, which is what gives matter its mass. By discovering the Boson, you've essentially validated the mechanism."

Abe Froman: "The Higgs Boson is a tiny building block that gives things mass. Everything solid that we can actually touch has mass. Imagine a box of invisible, weightless legos that you cannot use to play. Dump in a bunch of Higgs Bosons, and those invisible weightless toys become the colorful blocks you can use to build things. It is called the "God particle" because it can create something out of nothing."

Brian • New Braunfels, Texas: "I think my grandpa has a sack full of these in the garage."

Get thee back to a classroom

dyne • "Higgs boson what I got from the article was this. Much like like, gravity or other fundamental forces of the universe is another fundamental force of the universe. This force allows conversion between matter and energy. Matter in physics and chemistry terms is very highly condensed energy. Therefore, there needs to be some force or medium through this conversion happens. Gravity is carried by gravitons and light is carried by waves/particles of photons. Therefore, this unseen field is demonstrated by higgs-boson particles that emanate this field to cause enough light and energy to coalesce to form atoms of matter. This is a huge discovery. If we could somehow figure out how to convert matter to energy and back in the same form it was as matter. Then my friends. We have figured out how to travel at the speed of light."

Jake • San Diego, California: "The discovery of the Boson is incredible and nothing short of it. Many will not understand this, but they were able to capture the life of a sub atomic particle that billionths of a billionths of a billionths of a billionths of a second. Quite honestly if you don't know what that means it is like .000000001 then a billionth of that, then a billionth of that. The pure time it is actually in reality is not even fathomable by human eye. What this advances for us as of right now? Nothing, but what it means for the future? Incredible amounts of possibilities."

pip: "This is an utterly fascinating subject. Makes me want to take advanced physics just so I can understand it better. Here's a big question: Hawking has postulated that the ultimate black hole is so powerful that it's gravity captures Light and Time themselves. The idea that Light can have Gravity, that TIME can be affected by GRAVITY is astounding... but that is what Hawking claims to have proven. My question is: If Light has no mass(and presumably Time has no mass either) how can either of them be affected by Gravity, no matter how powerful?"

[Related: The Higgs boson may not have been found after all, warn particle physicists]

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When alchemists argue

JETS • What Yahoo was trying to say....In the begining there was energy. Suddenly, with the help of an intermediary (the God particle), energy was converted to mass (each of the elements appearing on the Periodic Table of Elements). Why is this exciting? Because if they really found it, they can now use it to turn energy into whichever Element they want. I'm willing to bet all of you wouldnt mind a bunch of Au79. Thats why its a freakin awesome discovery!!!
[Reply] Xj • "The OP missed the point entirely. The Higgs particle expresses itself as "masss", NOT AS ELEMENTS IN THE PERIODIC TABLE. "Mass" is only ONE attribute of those "materials". The particle contributes the "mass" attributes to those elements, but not the elements themselves. Theoretically, if not for the Higgs particle, they would have no mass, but exist nonetheless."
[Reply] Ulisses B • Santa Monica, California •"i dont know if you all know this, but you cant just turn energy straight into au79. You would first need the have energy turned into Hydrogen, which then can be fused into helium, causing a star, and eventually mass could turn into au79 via fusion. Technically, we can conduct any alchemy without controlled fusion, and weve known that for a long time. it has nothing to do with the higgs boson"

Waxing philosophic

H.G. Liddy: "How many bosons can you fit on a head of a pin?"

[Reply] Ryan • Miami, Florida: "The head of a pin is millions of atoms wide. Bosons are millions of times smaller than atoms."

And you thought the bison pun was egregious:

Kinty: "Did the yankees just sign Boson Higgs? I didn't closely."

What if...

James • Colorado Springs, Colorado: "This is pretty cool. If we could somehow replicate the process that converts the Higgs from energy to mass, we might be able to attain light speed. Light energy converted to mass, like theoretical wind in the theoretical sails."

CommonCitizenLikeYou: "I was reading a new theory called the "big bounce" theory. Basically instead of singulairties like black holes gaining infinite mass and density, when the matter gets too close it expands back out- like a heart beat. The universe expands, then begins contraction, when it gets too small, neutrinos, which normally do not interact with anything (there are trillions passing through you right now) gain a state which add expansive energy to the contraction and cause a new "big bang" This happens about once every trillion years and is the universe's "pulse." The theory treats all matter as a large, interconnected, living thing. The bigger the thing the slower the heart beat, from the smallest mammals with 500 BPM hearts to the universe which beats once every trillion years."

Stephen L • New York, New York: "So without the Higgs Boson particle everything in the universe would be energy because no particle would have mass which is needed for matter. So this particle allows (or causes) matter to exist. Is that about right?"
[REPLY] Trinity Martin: "Everything is potential energy before it begins to move. When it moves, that energy is converted into mass. E=MC squared. The amount of mass a thing has depends on how fast the thing is moving. Like if you throw a bullet at someone, it doesnt do anything. But speed it up by shooting it from a gun and it can puncture a wall. The faster the speed, the more the potential energy of the bullet is converted to mass. So without motion, everything would be energy, basically, potential energy"
[REPLY] Jim: "Trinity, photons move faster than any other particle, yet they have no mass. Stephen's summary is actually pretty good. The Higgs boson provides the mass that's needed for matter to exist."
[REPLY] Trinity Martin: "Photons do have mass as they pass through the field. It is slight, but it is there It has been shows than photon can move objects. They have experiments that have proven it. In fact, some scientists are using it to design spacecraft that can use a "light sail" to travel. The photons of light push the sails. , its fascinating research"
[REPLY] Daniel • Richardson, Texas: "So, if you could manipulate the Higg-Boson field, you could potentially convert the potential energy stored in an object, causing it to accelerate, right?"
[REPLY] Concerned Cheesewedge: "@Daniel, if you could break down the elements to their energy states, you could basically create any element by replicating the amount of HB particles the energy has."
[REPLY] grrrrrwolf • Kansas City, Missouri: "Trinity: Do magnetic fields have mass? I agree that the light sails are interesting, but photons are supposedly massless."
[REPLY] Cheese wedge: "That would be very ironic if the desire to make gold drives scientific achievement again."
[REPLY] Moi: "So matter is matter because it moves. Relative to what? And can something be not-moving? What if matter doesn't "move"."
[REPLY] Trinity Martin: "Grrrrwolf, photons are NOT completely mass-less. Look it up and look into light sails and you will see what i mean. as far as magnetic fields having mass, they do, but a very tiny amount. all stored energy has some degree of mass, but it is not enough to affect anything"
[REPLY] Jim: "Trinity, solar sails work because the photons impart energy in the form of heat when they're reflected off the sail. Photons are therefore said to have relativistic mass by virtue of the fact that they are moving, and therefore carry energy. The rest mass of a photon is considered to be zero in particle physics, even though photons are never at rest."

Room for religious (humor)?

Sherylr • Buffalo, New York: "A Higgs boson walks into a Catholic church. The priest exclaims, “Thank God you’re here! Now we can have mass!”"
[Reply] NANCI • San Diego: "@ Sherylr: "A Higgs boson walks into a Catholic church. The priest exclaims, “Thank God you’re here! Now we can have mass!” ". . . but, does it 'matter?'"
[Reply] L: "A neutron walks into a bar and orders a drink. The bartender says, "For you, no charge." A neutrino walks into a bar. The bartender says, "Sorry, we're closed." The neutrino says, "Don't worry, I'm just passing through." :)"
[Reply] Proud Marine Dad • Stockton, California: "Sherylr, without your witty insight, we would never have grasped the gravity of the issue..."
[Reply] Mike G: "You stole that from another poster in a different article a few days ago. The told it better as well."

When Elvis's name is taken in vain

elvis: "My guess is not very many people on this post have any idea or give a rat about this subject. I want to see some stuff about women."

Higgs hipster bragging

SamA: poseurs. I was reading about the higgs boson before it was cool.
Sgt. B  •  Regensburg, Germany: "Right on, Ive know about the super colliders for years. Have these people been living under a rock? CERN just happens to be the biggest. They have even done several shows about it on discovery!"
Jeffrey James: "me too...couldn't wait for them to get that smasher up after it messed up at first...had my fingers crossed a long time hoping they would find it"
-v.107  •  Houston, Texas: "So is science just supposed to interest a small few and cannot allow science theories to popularize now? I been known about this for years already, but I would call you stupid before calling anyone else a "poser"."

Grammar sidebar fight: The name "God Particle"—which, our first round-up mentioned, was coined by scientist Leon Lederman in his 1993 book—introduced some heated theological exchanges. So did an adjective.

Mile: ""Then, as physicists are wont to do," - It would help if you wrote the article with proper grammar. Still can't figure out what you meant."
[REPLY] Zak • Arvada, Colorado: "It is proper grammar, just a bit outdated. Wont (without an apostrophe) means an established custom in this context so they meant "as physicists are accustomed to doing.""
[REPLY] Zach • Aurora, Colorado: "Well done, Zak"
[REPLY] John • Houston, Texas: Wont - to be accustomed or used to something.
By saying "wont" in the article they mean that the physicists are likely or are inclined to start smashing particles together.
It confused me too when I read it the first time because I instantly thought of "won't". I even had to look up the definition to make sure it made sense in the article or if I had it wrong. But in the end, it's not an error.
[REPLY] Turner54 • San Rafael, California: Back to fifth grade English for you, Mile.
[REPLY] steven b: "Observe Mile inserting foot into mouth!!! Lesson?? Don't comment on stuff waaay over your head!!
[REPLY] pip: "It would help if you would read the article with the proper education:
"wont3rd person singular present, past participle, past tense of wont.

"Adjective: (of a person) In the habit of doing something; accustomed. Noun: One's customary behavior in a particular situation: "Constance, as was her wont, left early". Verb: Make or be or become accustomed. Synonyms: adjective. accustomed - wonted - habitual - usual - used - used to noun. habit - custom - practice - habitude - way - use - usage verb. accustom"
[REPLY] Mile: "Thanks Zak, did not know that. But to be fair he did say layman's terms!"
[REPLY] Mile: "why not just say accustomed to"
[REPLY] Bad Habit: "@Mile ~ Or don't use words with more than 2 syllables, right? ::facepalm::
"Because some of us ARE capable of reading and comprehending above a 3rd grade level.
"[Why does it not surprise me that you are from Florida.]"
[REPLY] Mile: "wow, everyone here is all of a sudden "wont" to insulting. Oh yeah it's a word EVERYONE uses in their vocabulary. I apologize for my mistake, geez!"
[REPLY] Yellowskull of Vengeance • Plano, Texas: ". . . and having battled and defeated the villianous Blatherbeast, ACTION GRAMMARIAN, as is his wont, repairs to the FORTRESS of STANDARD USAGE and won't come out again until the Terrible Ts invade the SYNTAX-VERSE, they're predestined to foist their misuse there
"Same GRAMMAR time
"same GRAMMAR channel."