What’s this Higgs boson thing I keep seeing in the headlines?

If you are like me and you have responded to the information overload that IS the internet, then you might get a lot of your news like this:

1. “Like” your favorite news sources on Facebook/Twitter
2. Scan your Facebook/Twitter feed for headlines
3. Email your friends who are SMEs (subject matter experts) in the topics referenced in interesting headlines, or even (gasp) read the article and maybe a few of the links in the article your-damn-self
4. Track mildly interesting headlines against the social chatter of your life (emails from interested friends and family; water cooler chatter; match up to previous mildly interesting news story)
5. Track headlines that mean absolutely nothing to you, but that keep popping up everywhere – find out what the big deal is

The Higgs boson is in Realm #5 for me. It rang a bell in the dormant science compartment of my mind, but that was a distant ringing at best. I saw it in several Facebook feeds of nerdier friends first, then in the mainstream media feeds, and finally it was everywhere.

I opted to stoke my science compartment with this article by Ainissa Ramirez, “Why You Should Care About The God Particle And Sadly Why You Don’t”.

Ms. Ramirez smartly starts by explaining what the flippity-flip the “Higgs boson” actually is. Let me break it down for you:
Higgs = smart scientist who came up with a smart theory
boson = subatomic particle

From there, the op-ed takes off with genuine emotion behind Ms. Ramirez’s argument that proving Higgs boson “is the biggest scientific discovery of the 21st Century. Period.”

Basically, Ms. Ramirez argues that the discovery of the Higgs boson is going to completely change the world as we know it. Then, she goes on to lament the disconnect between the scientific community who recognizes the significance of proving Higgs’ theory and the everyman dumb-dumb (i.e., me) who has never heard of a boson, much less Mr. Higgs’ boson.

I agree with her premise – this is the kind of news that is actually NEWS! This is the level of importance that actually warrants the yellow “Breaking News” exclamation that seems to accompany every single CNN broadcast I’ve seen in recent years. Tell me more! Tell me more!

Unfortunately, Ms. Ramirez penned an op-ed, and not an article that uses her engaging prose to give the down and dirty on the Higgs boson. Perhaps she can collaborate on an upcoming TED talk, or write a follow-up article to guide me. Until then, I suppose I will have to suck it up and read about the Higgs boson on my own.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “What’s this Higgs boson thing I keep seeing in the headlines?

  1. I hadn’t heard of it either 😦

  2. Dave’s a physicist so he was all excited about this. I grilled him for 30 minutes on the drive to our favorite (but far away) grocery store the day of the announcement and I still don’t understand it. Physicists are extraordinarily bad at explaining stuff, or maybe that’s just Dave (but I don’t think so from the press conference Dave was listening to about the announcement). They are the only ones who seem to understand this stuff, so it’s easy to believe they’re making it up.

    My favorite thing about this is Dave’s Dad’s response to the email Dave sent out to his family about this news…”I’ve been waiting for this!” Ha!

    • I think I get it, but I am aware that I am probably grasping somewhere between 30% and 83% of the whole thing. Yea, definitely closer to 30% since I just called it “the whole thing” – lame!

      But so exciting!

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