Higgs Boson!

Are you a Higgs expert? Take this quiz to find out!

Higgs Boson!

Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago


By Kathryn Jepsen

July 4th marks the 10e anniversary of the discovery of the Higgs boson.

This 10-question quiz will test your knowledge of the particle – and it may even teach you something new. Click through each of the answers for more information.

Close, but there is more. Scientists often use the name Higgs to refer to the Higgs boson, also known as the Higgs boson.

In the Standard Model of particle physics, particles are divided into fermions and bosons. Fermions are matter particles, such as quarks and electrons. Bosons are force-carrying particles, such as the photon (carrying the electromagnetic force) and the gluon (carrying the strong force). But “Higgs” can refer to more than just that!

Close, but there is more. The Higgs field is a quantum field. According to quantum field theory, each particle is really just a localized vibration in a quantum field. So a single electron is a vibration of the electron field, which exists throughout the universe. A Higgs particle is a vibration of the Higgs field, which also occurs everywhere in the universe. But “Higgs” can refer to more than just that!

Close, but there is more. “Higgs” can refer to the Higgs mechanism, the solution that physicists came up with to solve a problem they had with their understanding of the fundamental forces of nature.

By the 1960s, physicists had discovered that electricity and magnetism were actually both manifestations of the same fundamental force: electromagnetism. They had also noticed that above a certain energy – say in the early universe just after the Big Bang – another force should have been united with electromagnetism: the weak force.

But there was a problem. Their equations predicted that the particles associated with these forces would all be massless. However, the particles associated with the weak force cannot possibly be massless. If it were, the process the weak force is responsible for — radioactive decay — would spiral out of control and the universe would look very different.

The Higgs mechanism is the process that, when the universe began to cool after the Big Bang, broke the symmetry between electromagnetism and the weak force, giving the weak force particles mass. But the Higgs is more than just a mechanism!

Close, but there is more. Peter Higgs is the theoretical physicist after whom the Higgs mechanism, the Higgs field, and the Higgs boson are all named.

Right! The Higgs mechanism, named after Scottish theorist Peter Higgs, describes the Higgs field, which scientists study by producing Higgs particles.

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