Aug 07

Explain it like I’m Five: What is the Higgs Boson?

ELI5: The Higgs Boson

If you’ve been watching TV lately, you’ve probably seen a lot of news about a particle called the Higgs boson and how important it is for physics.

First, a little bit of background info:

Physicists believe that the entire universe is made of up of only a handful of different particles. So everything from lightning bolts to your fingertips are made up of at least one of those particles (usually a couple of them). This is called the Standard Model. Scientists are proud to say that they’ve discovered all of these particles except for one.

Yep, you’ve guessed it. Except for the Higgs boson.

At this point, you may be thinking: “How did they know the Higgs boson existed if they hadn’t found it yet?”

Well, to explain this, let’s use a really basic example. Imagine our solar system in your head. Before our planet Neptune was discovered, scientists still knew it existed. All they had to do was watch the neighboring planet Uranus and see how it moved. They noticed that its orbit was a little strange at some points. Based on this, they knew some other planet was there affecting Uranus.

Similarly, physicists watch particles and see how the mass (this is almost like “weight”) works. They realized that there has to be some other particle helping out with this, so they predicted that the Higgs boson exists.


Scientists know that all of the matter just doesn’t stay put. There is something that happens when the stuff around it gets “excited” and they believe this to be the Higgs boson.

So what is the big deal about finding this particle anyway? Well, scientists already assume that Higgs boson exists, so discovering it just proves all of the theories that have been in the works for the past few decades. Now the main problem is what would be happen if scientists prove that the Higgs boson doesn’t actually exist. Simply put, this will pretty much destroy most of our knowledge of universe. Let’s just hope that this doesn’t happen!

As of July 2012, physicists at one of the biggest labs in the world are about 99% sure they’ve found it. Even though that sounds really good, physicists are extremely precise and will continue testing until they’re completely sure.


Check out our top 5 favorite links explaining the Higgs boson:


  1. John Ellis, explains what is the Higgs boson 
  2. The Higgs boson is explained in a fun way using drawings and animation
  3. CNN offers a quirky explanation of the Higgs boson using Justin Beiber
  4. Ian Sample offers a not-so high tech explanation of the Higgs boson
  5. Follow this complex flow chart to find out what particle are you?