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In which Hank takes a few minutes out of his busy vacation to talk about the Higgs boson, the Higgs field, and what they mean. We know a remarkable amount about this universe, but as of this week, we officially know a lot more. It's pretty freaking exciting, and I'm very pleased that our world is still committed to this kind of pure science and discovery.

Thanks to Henry Reich of Minute Physics for looking this video over and making sure I'm not totally full of crap.


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A Bunny
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Crowd: Good morning, John, it's Friday.

Hank Green: I'm looking forward to making the more complete thoughts from Vidcon video. Lots happened and I haven't really even digested it all yet, because now I've gone on vacation. The one week when I'm out of the SciShow office, the biggest discovery in particle physics in the last hundred years happens, so that's a little frustrating. So instead of talking about Vidcon on my vacation here in Laguna Beach, or my new obsession with Instagram, today we're going to talk about why Vidcon and vacations and dolphins and Instagram and planets exist.

There are only four forces in the universe, strong force, weak force, gravity, electromagnetism, and they are only three types of particles, so it's actually pretty remarkably simple, all of this, considering that the entire universe is based on it, but it is a little hard to wrap your head around sometimes. So one of the many things that quantum mechanics told us is that, in fact, fields don't exist the way we think of fields. Like with a magnet, we used to kind of just imagine this invisible field that was preventing us from pushing the magnet together, but in fact, there's kind of this fog of virtual photons that radiates out from the point source of the magnetism. Forces are carried by these virtual particles, also called gage bosons. All of the forces have these force carriers. We've seen all of them except for the graviton.

Probably we're never going to see the graviton. We're never really going to know if it exists because of reasons. But all of these forces have a point source. There's a place where the gage bosons, the virtual particles, the force carriers, emanate from. But what's weird is that this elegant system could not explain why matter has mass. And you would think like, do we even have to explain why matter has mass? Matter just is massy, right? It's just stuff. It's stuffy. Things are thingy! But no, because some things don't have mass, like photons. And some things have tiny amounts of mass, like electrons. And then there are other particles that have a huge amount of mass, so what makes them different? Is it the size? No, because they're all the same size, which is basically sizeless. They don't have size. They have no volume. So have fun with that in your brain.

So, why would a top quark be hundreds of thousands of times more massive than an electron if they're the same size? In the '60s, a bunch of scientists, including a dude with the last name of Higgs, theorized that there was a field that permeated the entire universe evenly, not from a point source, but that was everywhere, a constant evenly distributed fog of force carrier that some particles interact with more than other particles. So a top quark, 350,000 times more massive than an electron, just interacts with that field more than an electron. And photons don't interact with it at all, which is why they're always zipping around at the speed of light. Equations indicated that if this field of particles did not exist, all particles would be zipping around at the speed of light and making everything that we know and love impossible.

The Higgs boson was predicted to be a part of this system, though, importantly, not the part that actually imbues the particles with mass. There are other parts of the Higgs field that do that. But the boson part is the part that we can theoretically observe to confirm that yes, indeed, the Higgs field exists. And we've gotten pretty good over the years of coaxing these particles into existence because mass and energy are the same thing. We can slam particles together with enough energy that we can excite the Higgs field and suddenly see this new particle, which we have now seen, that explains why I'm not flying apart at the speed of light, which is great because it makes all of the things that we love possible, from fireworks to dolphins to the ocean to your boyfriend. Like all of that stuff wouldn't be possible without that invisible fog of particles that permeates our universe from one no edge to the other no edge.

John, I'll see you on Monday.