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Why you should care about Tuesday's physics Nobel announcement

British physicist Peter Higgs (right) and Belgium physicist Francois Englert theorized the particle that the universe relies on for creating mass. Their efforts were honored today with the Nobel Prize in Physics. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP.
British physicist Peter Higgs (right) and Belgium physicist Francois Englert theorized the particle that the universe relies on for creating mass. Their efforts were honored today with the Nobel Prize in Physics. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP.

British physicist Peter Higgs (right) and Belgium physicist Francois Englert theorized the particle that the universe relies on for creating mass. Their efforts were honored today with the Nobel Prize in Physics. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP.

As you’ve probably already heard, the Nobel committee announced that its award in physics this year is going to Belgier François Englert  and Briten Peter Higgs, the guys that theorized the Higgs boson more than half a century before its eventual discovery last year. The Higgs is a subatomic particle that is so tiny and elusive it evaded thousands of scientists’ best efforts for decades. It’s important because it gives the universe mass. If you’d like to learn more, I’ve written about it a few times, see here, here, and here, for example. But even after reading you may still wonder why you should care about such a discovery. Everyone knows there’s mass after all, so why do we need to spend time worrying about how it got there? I turn, once again, to the ever eloquent Toyoko Orimoto to explain the beauty and significance of this kind of research. (For a longer version of Orimoto waxing passionate on particle physics, see her TED talk here.)

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