Higgs Made Simple

Loads of people have been asking us what the fuss is all about so here’s some great starting points and some stuff you may not know about the discovery…

Higgs Boson

Six things you might not know about the Higgs discovery…

1. The CERN choir have a song about it. If you know ‘The Hippopotamus Song’ by Flanders and Swan you will be able to join in!


2. The only reason it is referred to as a ‘God’ particle was because a book by Leon Lederman (about how hard it would be to find!) was originally called ‘The Goddamn Particle’ and the editor said that was unacceptable – so it became ‘The God Particle’ instead. Most physicists hate the title but the media seem to like it. More on that here!


3. You can get an Large Hadron Collider (LHC) pop-up book where you can build your own ATLAS detector (but it doesn’t take millions of pounds or 15 years to complete).


4. Pippa Wells is one of our Higgs-heroes. She is the person in charge of the inside of the ATLAS detector experiment which captured the Higgs-boson data. The detector is only equivalent to an 80 megapixel camera but takes 40 million ‘shots’ a second. That’s a lot of data. As well as being a top physicist she pays violin, and if that doesn’t keep her busy enough she has three young children, including a set of twins! A proper superwoman we reckon.


5. ‘Five sigma’ is a measurement of how unlikely it is that scientific findings happened just by chance. In this case, it is less likely to be just chance than if you tossed a coin and got 20 heads in a row. Some engineers use a scheme called Six Sigma, a process to make manufacturing very, very accurate. Five sigma, as a percentage, is about 99.977% while six sigma is 99.999966%. Either way – it means the Higgs data is pretty much accepted, as it is just too unlikely to have happened by chance.


6. The data was presented using the Comic-Sans font which caused some concern amongst the twitter community. Apparently this was due to an in-joke about the font amongst the physicists! What do you think?


Three videos that make the Higgs-Boson (a bit) simpler to understand

Ian Sample from the Guardian makes it all very clear using a tray and some ping-pong balls in just 4m 34s (in fact you can stop at 2m 33 if you only want to know what it is and now how we look for it!)


PHD Comics if you prefer a bit of animation and have 7m 44s to spare


And last but by no means least, our good friend Doctor Lewney (who was taught by Peter Higgs) if you have 12 minutes to spare – very entertaining!


Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Exploring Science, Physics