"Knowing the path is not the same as walking it," said Morpheus.
Peter Higgs didn't know he was going to discover a particle.
Originally it was dubbed the Goddamn Particle.
"Higgs proposed that broken symmetry could explain the origin of mass of elementary particles and of the W and Z bosons in particular. This [Higgs mechanism] predicts the existence of a new particle, the Higgs boson, detection of which became one of the great goals of physics.[8 " (Wikipedia)
(Photo courtesy Leslie C. Bertrand)
Boson = a particle of force, a mediator of some kind, an ethereal being in the quantum foam. Gluons (they hold our quarks together) and Photons come into this category. Particles that are something definable, are fermions - quarks or leptons, of which matter is made. But bosons - there are two kinds, scalar and vector. Confused?... well, here's the BBC:
Scalars have a size, while vectors have both size and direction. When adding vector quantities, it is possible to find the size and direction of the resultant vector by drawing a scale diagram.
W and Z are the vector (gauge) bosons and Higgs joins them as a scalar boson. The only one, at time of writing, that accounts for there being any scale in our universe at all. Thinking on this....
If there were no scale, created by asymmetry as Higgs' original proposal (above) says it must be, the forces and the material elements would have no form to take that physical observers could recognise.
Quarks (you're made of those) and neutrinos (they fly through you all the time) oscillate - change from one thing to another. Why? What for? Well, these questions seem important enough for people to find particles that fit the boxes. And if you read this from CERN, you'll find the quark and neutrino sharing a stage. The weak force - miniscule in spacetime, massive in effect. And the Higgs, another force altogether. High-five to the field, where the Higgs comes out to play - may the Force be with you that pieces reality together, the constructive cement that mass depends on, but which of itself is - what? Energy? The Higgs has something to do with asymmetry...
You've followed the white rabbit far enough to know there are answers to questions many people don't even want to ask. What's more, you're unique, with reason to be drawn to this track in the first place. Our planetary play is now well into Act lll - we're working out what it means, where to go from here, how to live with what's to come. Physics is a guiding light, a beacon of reason, the nuts and bolts of the reality construct. Do we really have room for so many constraints?
Questions are being asked of consciousness. Suggestions have been made that there's a particle to account for it. To quote Cern (from behind the picture here of a Higgs interaction:)-
At the subatomic scale, the universe is a complex choreography of elementary particles interacting with one another through fundamental forces, which can be explained using a term that physicists of all persuasions turn to: elegance.
Kathy is the author of Quantumology. She met up with quantum mechanics in 1997, pledging allegiance to its sources thereafter. These are her personal thoughts and testimonies.