Researchers at the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) facility in Geneva say the "God particle", also known as the Higgs boson, will be found within the next year — if it exists. The elusive, and possibly mythical, particle is believed to have helped give shape to the universe after the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago, and would be the final puzzle-piece that scientists need to corroborate their universe creation theory. Here's what you should know:
First off: What's a God particle?
Named after British physicist Peter Higgs, the Higgs boson is the only elementary particle in scientists' "Standard Model of physics" that has not yet been accounted for. Among other things, the God particle would help resolve questions about how other elementary particles obtain their mass.
How would you even find something like the God particle?
By employing the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a massive particle accelerator that CERN scientists have been using to recreate conditions of the Big Bang — billions upon billions of times. Using magnets to smash particles together at incredibly high speeds, scientist then sift through subatomic wreckage hoping to find the Higgs boson.
And the next year is critical?
Yes. Given the enormous number of experiments being conducted and the sky-high pile of data being collected, it's now or never. Rolf Heuer, director general of CERN, said last week: "I think by this time next year I will be able to bring you either the Higgs boson or the message that it doesn't exists."
What if they don't find it?
The Higgs boson is "just one theory," says Gavin Allen at Britain's Daily Mail, pointing out that even if the God particle doesn't exist, another mechanism that fills Higgs boson's role will almost certainly turn up. As one CERN researcher put it: "We've reached the edge of the unknown. It's all new physics from now."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- How to be the star of a cocktail party where you don't know anyone
- Why so many Christians won't back down on gay marriage
- California's epic drought
- 13 Urban Outfitters controversies
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
Subscribe to the Week