US Catholic Faith in Real Life

God particle: The Higgs boson wins the Nobel prize in physics

By Kira Dault | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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It is Nobel Prize season. And yesterday, two physicists - Peter Higgs and François Englert - became Nobel laureates for their research on what is now known as the Higgs boson.

For your average person, this news probably went more-or-less unnoticed, but I am a bit of a science geek, and I also happen to be a religion nerd.

The Higgs boson gives me cause to celebrate on both counts. First, the Higgs boson is the explanation that Higgs and Englert gave (independently) for why particles have mass. For a fun and relatively simple explanation of what the Higgs boson is, look at this graphic from the NY Times.

But the Higgs boson has another name. Granted, it is a name that physicists often do not like, because it is too sensational. But the name has stuck nonetheless, "God particle," so called possibly because of the way that the Higgs boson has the potential to unlock so many answers about how the universe is held together. It is also a particle without which (if the theory is correct), none of us would or could exist.

I confess my fascination with the Higgs boson not merely because of its sciencey-wonderment, but also because of this connection that has been made with God. The particle itself is not God, but it seems to me that it gives us a glimpse of the way that God is operating in the universe. Without the Higgs boson and the Higgs field, there would be no mass, which means that atoms could not form, and the building blocks of life would just be whizzing past each other in vacuous space.

Similarly, God is a force that holds us together in love. We are called to God and called to each other - not just as independent particles whizzing past each other, but as community, as family, as one body.

These last couple of weeks have felt unwieldy and a bit like the seams are starting to tear. Stability has given way to uncertainty. But we also profess a God that is, at the center, a mystery - but a mystery that holds us together.

Image: CMS Higgs-event by Lucas Taylor  CC-BY-SA-3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.