Now confirming the discovery of the Higgs boson particle, physicists are wrestling with implications of actually finding it ~ the last undiscovered piece of the puzzle predicted by the so-called Standard Model, the reigning theory of particle physics.
LiveScience is listing what it sees as the six largest consequences of the discovery, listed here in abbreviated form:
1. The origin of mass
"The Higgs mechanism is the thing that allows us to understand how the particles acquire mass," said Joao Guimaraes da Costa, a physicist at Harvard. "If there was no such mechanism, then everything would be massless."
2. The Standard Model
The reigning theory of particle physics describes the universe's very small constituents. Every particle predicted by the Standard Model had been discovered ~ except one: the Higgs boson. "It's the missing piece in the Standard Model," Jonas Strandberg, a researcher at CERN said last year of the particle announcement. "So it would definitely be a confirmation that the theories we have now are right."
3. The electroweak force
The confirmation of the Higgs also helps to explain how two of the fundamental forces of the universe ~ the electromagnetic force that governs interactions between charged particles, and the weak force that's responsible for radioactive decay ~ can be unified.
This idea posits that every known particle has a "superpartner" particle with slightly different characteristics. Supersymmetry is attractive because it could help unify some of the other forces of nature, and even offers a candidate for the particle that makes up dark matter.
5. Validation of LHC
The newly announced finding offers major validation for the Large Hadron Collider and for the scientists who've worked on the search for many years.
6. Is the universe doomed?
The Higgs boson discovery opens the door to new calculations that weren't previously possible, scientists say, including one that suggests the universe is in for a cataclysm billions of years from now. "It may be the universe we live in is inherently unstable, and at some point billions of years from now it's all going to get wiped out," added Lykken, a collaborator on the CMS experiment.