On 13 December, a standing-room-only audience at CERN and webcast viewers worldwide heard representatives of the two principal detector teams at the laboratory’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) report the year-end status of their searches for the Higgs boson. Interest in a possible first sighting of this last undiscovered particle required by particle theory’s standard model (SM) is unusually widespread.

In the SM, the quantum field of the Higgs boson serves to break the underlying symmetry of the model’s unification of the electromagnetic and weak interactions. It bestows the requisite large masses on the W± and Z0 bosons that mediate the short-range weak interactions, while leaving their sibling, the photon, massless and free ranging. Coupling to the Higgs field also accounts for the nonvanishing masses of the fundamental fermions: the quarks and leptons.

The SM Higgs boson H has neither charge nor spin. (One speaks of an SM Higgs...

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