Do you know that we have an elementary field that interacts with other particles to generate mass? Do you know that these particles are the reason why you and I exist? Do you know that the whole Universe is governed by the rules imposed by the properties of these elementary particles? Do you know that quantum fluctuations of this particular elementary particle can practically wipe out the Universe and all the remains of its existence?
If you don’t know the answers, then you can always find them out. Some people didn’t know something and they created laws to define those things by investigating nature. So, you can always do that if you are looking for a life full of mysteries and adventure. Just make sure your answers are right by finding out flaws within yourself, do not create your own reality, make reality your own. Now, let’s get started on our journey in search of the infamous, ‘Higgs Boson’!
THE MAN BEHIND THE GOD
In 1894, Satyendra Nath Bose was born to a Bengali family. Since birth, Bose had an interest in mathematics. During his childhood, his father, Surendranath Bose would leave mathematical problems for Bose while he was away and Bose would complete them before his father came back home. He was very intelligent and he came fifth in his matriculation exams.
He pursued a Bachelor of Science in mixed mathematics from Presidency College and graduated in 1913 where he stood first. It is important to note that another genius physicist, Meghnad Saha was his contemporary. While Bose stood first in his exams, Saha stood only second to him. Saha had immense contributions to nuclear physics and both of them knew each other. But the story’s for another time. Let’s move on!
After completing his graduation, Bose joined the Science College founded by Sir Asutosh Mukherjee to pursue Masters of Science (MSc) in mixed mathematics. In 1915, he completed his MSc in mixed mathematics securing first place again and also scoring record marks under the University of Calcutta which are yet to be broken.
In 1916, Bose became a teacher at the University of Calcutta, and in 1921, he joined the University of Dhaka as a Professor of Physics. This is where things start getting interesting and eventually lead us into a story of extraordinary discoveries! Discoveries, if they hadn’t made their way through, would have left the world years behind. Leaving us with science that doesn’t know what protons are made up of, science that doesn’t know the Standard Model, science that doesn’t know the Large Hadron Collider, and much much more even beyond yours, and my own, wildest imaginations.
BOSE THE DISCOVERER!
Many discoveries take place as accidents. Bose was trying to explain to his students that classical physics did not match up with the conclusions of the Planck radiation law by Professor Max Planck. He made an error and that particular error paved the way for his own theory. He had now derived Planck’s law without the help of classical electromagnetism which led to the field of quantum statistics.
Bose wrote a paper on it but no one would publish it. So, he sent the paper to Einstein and the importance of the paper was immediately recognized by him. Einstein published Bose’s paper in the August 1924 issue of Zeitschrift für Physik under the title, Plancks Gesetz Lichtquantenhypothese (the English title was Planck’s Law and Light Quantum Hypothesis). Bose, now got his deserving recognition and through his fame, got to work with the likes of Louis de Broglie, Marie Curie, and Albert Einstein in Europe.
The way Bose made this immense contribution, was by treating each particle as identicals. You cannot really distinguish between two electrons or two photons because they really have the same properties and this very idea has very profound implications. These ideas are the roots that build up the world in which we live. If any of us(including me) studies Quantum Field Theory someday, we might be able to find deeper secrets of this mysterious world. For now, let’s continue with the story we have built up so far.
IT’S TIME FOR FIELDWORK!
We have discussed the man and his discoveries, now it’s time to discuss their implications. We already have some hints on our hands, but wait! There is literally nothing in there! Except for virtual particles being created and destroyed continuously so that there is no violation of mass-energy conservation. Well, lame jokes aside, we shall talk just a bit about Bose before continuing.
Bose’s ideas led to a certain kind of statistics, called the Bose-Einstein statistics. The particles which followed the Bose-Einstein statistics came to be known as bosons(in honor of Bose). By applying Bose-Einstein statistics to atoms, we get a new state of matter, known as the Bose-Einstein condensate, which is a condensed collection of bosons.
Bosons is a class of particles with integer spins(0, 1, 2…) that make up our world. The other class of elementary particles is called a Fermion(named after Enrico Fermi) which contains fractional spins(1/2, 3/2, 5/2…). Finally, we are starting to get a feel of the subject ‘matter’, physicists! The lame joke I made, did have some meaning(and yes, that’s the best I could come up with). But I am gonna leave that up to you. Curious minds have already felt the scent of a delicacy, and not just any delicacy, it’s a dish containing flavors (pun intended for those who understand) of the Universe.
Having known me for some time, you might also be able to feel something right now. It’s time to level up now! The Bosons are particles and as I promised at the beginning, I will tell you how mass is generated. For now, let me tell you something about bosons, are you ready?… Bosons carry forces! Behind every force you know, there is an elementary particle(not yet found for gravity). These bosons are called gauge bosons and they are force carriers. We have photons for electromagnetic forces, W and Z bosons for the weak force, Gluons for strong force and we also have a hypothetical particle called graviton which is yet to be discovered and is expected to be the force carrier of gravity.
This is a huge topic and so it’s better that we discuss this only in brief terms. Every force particle has a field. I know many of you might have heard the term, ‘Electric field’ which is a field of electromagnetic forces. A field is a region where the force due to the particle can be felt. If you think about it, it’s quite a paradoxical situation. A particle is supposed to occupy a definite point in space-time while fields can occupy large areas. It is really necessary to take a momentary break and wonder how beautiful nature is and how unexpected things can turn out to be. The field is a necessary concept which we need to talk about the Higgs boson.
The Higgs boson, also known as the God particle was already predicted by the Standard Model but it was recently discovered by CERN in the year 2013. It was predicted by Peter Higgs. Now, let me clear something up, there is no religion involved here. When Leon Lederman got the Nobel prize for discovering the Higgs boson, from the years of frustration and agony, he said ‘The Goddamn particle’ which was meant as a joke but now it is called ‘The God Particle.
It is surprising to think that none of these would have ever happened if Bose didn’t make that error. Anyways, the Higgs boson is the reason that particles have mass. The field associated with the Higgs boson is the Higgs field and the interaction of the elementary particles with the Higgs field generates the mass. The photon interacts negligibly with the Higgs field and therefore has zero rest mass. Do not expect me to say anything more, this topic is getting out of my hands.
The Higgs field is existent everywhere and all particles interact with it. It might give you a heart attack right now to say that Higgs boson might collapse the Universe one day. Although scientists ‘expect’ that it won’t happen anytime soon. The mass of the Higgs boson is exactly perfect to make the whole Universe unstable one day and practically wipe out every form of life and result in the collapse of the Universe. So, before that humanity has to find out the truth.
We have to reach people and teach them science. We have to tell the reality of the world we live in. Just think of the people who cannot pursue their dreams because of the conditions they live in. Some people are forced to leave aside their dreams just to survive. Discoveries that were meant to be but were never made. Masterpieces that were never written. We need to create a world where everyone is equal and knowledge is free. Then people will start getting aware of their surroundings. One day, no life will exist in the Universe but we can still survive.
Only knowledge can save us, it can open a new path which we don’t know yet and we have to learn every day to get that and it is also our duty as citizens of the Universe by helping others to create this world a better place. And even if we die, I want humanity to die a glorifying death as the species whose curiosity knew no bounds and discovered everything that is out there. So, let’s stand up and fight against all the evils of the world to fulfill our desires and save ourselves.