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Top 10 Scientific Discoveries of 2013


5
Higgs Boson Confirmed
Peter Higgs, the British scientist responsible for starting all of this (Higgs) boson business, poses in front of a photo of the Atlas detector in London on Nov. 12, 2013. © Toby Melville/Reuters/Corbis
Peter Higgs, the British scientist responsible for starting all of this (Higgs) boson business, poses in front of a photo of the Atlas detector in London on Nov. 12, 2013. © Toby Melville/Reuters/Corbis

Every so often, there's a moment in science where everyone stands and cheers. That happened in March when scientists confirmed after decades of research (and some pretty promising July 2012 results) that they had found the Higgs boson. In 1964, a British physicist named Peter Higgs theorized that the tantalizingly elusive subatomic particle was the reason why matter has mass. Scientists working at an immense particle accelerator in Geneva, Switzerland, announced the discovery.

What does the Higgs boson supposedly do? People have used many metaphors to describe how it works. Some say it acts like molasses, dragging on particles as they move through it. Others compare it to a field of snow. Let's use that metaphor.

Some particles, like electrons, have little mass, while others have more mass. As these particles move through the universe, they interact with a Higgs field full of Higgs bosons, just like a person who moves through a snowy field. Electrons are like downhill skiers. They glide swiftly over the snow. Other particles that have more mass plod through the field like a person schlepping through snow in heavy boots. Still, other particles have no mass, so they don't interact with Higgs bosons at all. The discovery will help scientists explain how our universe works [source: Holmes].