Who better to describe the Higgs boson — colloquially called the “God particle” — than the man who helped theorized its existence and is its name sake?
Dr. Peter Higgs sat down with the BBC’s Life Scientific radio program Monday and gave one of the most basic descriptions he could.
One would think that the subatomic particle, which researchers at the CERN particle accelerator in Geneva, Switzerland, have been just shy of officially finding, would be complicated to explain — and it can be.
But the Nobel laureate was able to get to the key points in just two minutes on BBC’s show.
Dr. Higgs’ initial reaction to the question “What is the Higgs boson?” was a chuckle.
Then he launched into it.
“…these particles are just packages of energy of some kind of field,” the 84-year-old said. “And the feature [that] distinguishes this kind of theory, which leads to this kind of symmetry breaking, is the existence of what we, theoretical physicists, call the vacuum, which means nowadays something different than what it used to mean. It’s just the lowest energy state that you could possibily have in which there are no particles around but there maybe something around. And that something around can be a background field of some sort, which pervades the universe.
“In this theory, there is such a background field. And the background field, its interaction with all the other stuff that goes through, is responsible for generating the masses and mass differences of the other particles, elementary particles, [those] which are packages of all the energy in other fields. Simply because the background affects the way the waves propagate.
“But then, the field itself can be excited, or classically to give you waves to the packages of energy of that are the Higgs boson. So it’s an extra which comes with this type of theory, that you need to have something there, which is the excitation of the background field.”
“For me, that’s a beautifully eloquent explanation of what the Higgs field is or what the Higgs mechanism is,” the radio host said.
Then the host hits him with a more difficult question: “Could you encapsulate that information in 30 seconds?”
The answer from Dr. Higgs? A simple “no.”
Watch the clip where Dr. Higgs gives you a brief overview of the Higgs Boson in 120 seconds:
Higgs first described the elusive particle in 1964. In March 2013, researcher’s analysis of data from CERN regarding boson research said it “strongly indicated” the finding of the particle that scientists say is a building block of the universe.