Here’s What Happens When a Higgs Boson Dies — and What It Means for Particle Physics

By Chelsea Gohd

Six years after discovering the Higgs boson, physicists have observed how the particle decays — a monumental contribution to scientists’ understanding of the Standard Model of particle physics and the universe at large, study researchers said.

Excitement swirled in the physics community when, in 2012, physicists discovered the Higgs boson, an elementary particle predicted by the Standard Model that relates to how objects have mass. But this discovery didn’t mark the end of Higgs boson exploration. In addition to predicting the existence of Higgs boson particles, the Standard Model posits that 60 percent of the time, a Higgs boson particle will decay into fundamental particles called bottom quarks (b quarks).

In research presented yesterday (Aug. 28) at CERN, the ATLAS and CMS collaborations at the LHC at CERN say they have observed the Higgs boson decay into b quarks. The finding provides major support for the Standard Model, which has many implications for how we understand the world and the universe. “The Higgs boson is the least well-known and in many ways the most baffling particle in the standard model.  Observing its decay to bottom quarks is a major milestone in our understanding of its properties,” Jessie Shelton, a high-energy particle physicist at the University of Illinois who was not involved in this research, said in an email to Space.com. 

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