The Higgs boson, which is the so-called God Particle, is theorized to be responsible for all the mass in the universe. It plays well with the Standard Model. In the Standard Model, the Higgs field transfers mass to inherently massless particles. But according to the model, the Higgs field requires a carrier particle, which is where the Higgs boson comes into play. The Standard Model needs the field to explain mass, and it needs the God particle to prove the existence of the field.
The particle was theorized by Nobel laureate Peter Higgs who explains, “…these particles are just packages of energy of some kind of field. And the feature [that] distinguishes this kind of theory, which leads to this kind of symmetry breaking, is the existence of what we, theoretical physicists, call the vacuum, which means nowadays something different than what it used to mean. It’s just the lowest energy state that you could possibly have in which there are no particles around but there maybe something around. And that something around can be a background field of some sort, which pervades the universe... you need to have something there, which is the excitation of the background field.”
It sounds complicated because it is. In the simplest terms, the God particle proves the existence of a field that explains the phenomenon of mass in the universe.
The God Particle was a big deal in 2012, but the Ghost Particle is a big deal in 2015.
The Smithsonian explains the Ghost Particle, the neutrino, thusly: “When the nucleus of a radioactive atom disintegrates, the energy of the particles it emits must equal the energy it originally contained. But in fact, scientists observed, the nucleus was losing more energy than detectors were picking up. So to account for that extra energy the physicist Wolfgang Pauli conceived an extra, invisible particle emitted by the nucleus.”
Thus the Ghost Particle is the explanation for missing energy.
Takaaki Kajita and Arthur McDonald are the 2015 Nobel Prize winners in Physics for their research showing that neutrinos oscillate between flavors. If they can oscillate, they must have mass. The Standard Model assumes neutrinos to be massless (although an extension of the Standard Model provides for a collision between the Higgs boson and the neutrino), so this development has shown a weakness in the Standard Model.
Furthermore, the Ghost Particle may have its own ghost – the Sterile Neutrino. This Sterile Neutrino is purely hypothetical at this point, but there are tantalizing hints of its existence. If it is real, and it behaves the way scientists think it does, then soon we will have a much clearer understanding of Dark Matter.
Why does any of this matter? One aspect of Physics is to understand why matter is more prevalent in the universe than antimatter. According to theory, matter and antimatter should have resulted from the Big Bang in equal portion, thus cancelling each other out. But they didn’t. We know that because we exist. But why did matter win out? What are the forces in play that allow matter to be the victor and us to exist? These are the questions physicists ask as they wrestle with the God and the Ghost particles.
Physicists start with the idea, or the hypothesis, before they work toward the theory. It begins by observation of the reality around us, subjective though it may be. The subjectivity merely adds to the mystery, however - just ask a cat in a box. So what do you think about gods and ghosts now?
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab). "The short-baseline detectives and the mysterious case of the sterile neutrino." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 August 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150811092144.htm>.