July 5, 2012 at 4:41 PM ET
Minute Physics creator Henry Reich doesn't shrink from tackling the big bang and other big deals in science, so it makes sense that he's now making sense of the Higgs boson. His timing is excellent, considering that the subatomic particle appears to have been discovered at Europe's $10 billion Large Hadron Collider. In today's three-minute video, Minute Physics explains how the Higgs boson subatomic particle fits into the bigger puzzle of the universe's structure at the lowest level ... and why physicists hope this isn't the end of the story.
But be forewarned: This is the first part of what's expected to be a three-part video series. And although Reich is well-versed in film as well as physics, this isn't a one-man operation. Reich relies on experts at Canada's Perimeter Institute for support and scientific back-stopping. So stay tuned for future installments of Minute Physics' Higgs boson saga.
The Godless Particle
Notice that the video makes no mention of the Higgs boson as the "God particle." That's a label that Nobel-winning physicist gave to the god-danged particle decades ago, but since then, scientists have come to loathe the term. In fact, the boson is better described as the "Godless Particle," says Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist at Arizona State University. Here's his perspective, distilled into an email:
“The Higgs boson actually should probably be called the Godless particle. The background 'Higgs' field permeates all of space and is largely responsible for the existence of stars, planets and humans. The confirmation of the existence of this field strongly supports what modern physics has said for years: The many features of our universe can be largely accidental consequences of the conditions associated with the universe’s 'birth,' consistent with the laws of physics.
"Far from suggesting any higher power, the discovery at CERN takes particle physics one step further toward answering the question: 'Why is there something rather than nothing?' … by demonstrating the plausibility of the idea that everything we see could arise naturally from an initial state of no particles, and maybe no space, and maybe even no fixed laws — without supernatural shenanigans."
You'll be hearing a lot more about the Godless Particle from Krauss in the days ahead: He's writing an article on that theme for Newsweek, as well as an essay explaining the significance and physics of the discovery for The New York Times' Science Times section. To get the full cosmic story, you'll want to check out Krauss' latest book, "A Universe From Nothing."
While you're at it, check out these other efforts to explain the Higgs:
Alan Boyle is msnbc.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.