A Particle Becomes Less Theoretical
CMS detector photograph

A photo of the CMS detector at the Large Hadron Collider -- this enormous device looks for subatomic evidence of what makes our universe tick.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Why does matter have mass? To some, this may seem like a question Jack Handey would pose in his "Deep Thoughts" series. But scientists and philosophers have been pondering this question for years. Physicist Peter Higgs theorized that a particle might be responsible for imparting mass to other particles. We call this theoretical particle the Higgs boson.

Proving the existence of the Higgs boson would mean we'd have a more complete Standard Model of the universe. It's one of the goals scientists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a particle accelerator, have been working toward since the facility came online.

On July 4, 2012, news broke that experiments at the LHC produced data that could indicate the Higgs boson exists. Scientists tend to be cautious when discussing revolutionary discoveries, and it may turn out the particle they've detected is more complicated than Higgs's theoretical particle.

Whether the particle fits the theory or gives us a new set of questions to examine, we've entered an exciting era of physics. We could be that much closer to unlocking the secrets of the universe.

Honorable Mention: While the discovery of a Higgs boson-like particle is big news in physics, the 2012 Nobel prize for Physics went to Serge Haroche and David Wineland for their work in the field of quantum computing.