5 of the biggest unsolved mysteries in physics
The mysteries of the universe are as vast and wide as existence itself. Throughout history, mankind has searched and struggled to find the answers tucked away inside the universe and everything we see around us. As Deep Thought said in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you've never actually known what the question is." True, we have yet to come up with the answers to life, the universe, and everything — but oh do we have questions! Solving these mysteries may help to explain not only the creation of the universe, but also how it works, why it works, and possibly how it will end. 1. The Higgs boson
The Higgs boson is a hypothetical particle whose accompanying field is believed to be accountable for giving all other fundamental particles their mass. It is also the only elementary particle theorized in the Standard Model — the closest thing modern physics has to a "theory of everything" — that has not yet been actually observed through experiments. Why the difficulty proving this particular particle's existence? The Higgs boson has such a rapid decay that its appearance in the world is ineffably brief. Instead, physicists look for evidence of the particle's decay itself through experimentation. The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has been working to find the elusive particle via experiments at the Large Hadron Collider — the world's largest and most ambitious particle accelerator. By accelerating particles at the LHC to near the speed of light and then smashing them into each other, scientists have recently been able to estimate that they will likely find the signal for the particle somewhere around the mass of 115 to 130 GeV. Now that we know where to look, we're likely to find out sooner than later whether the Higgs boson exists or not — and for physicists around the world, that'll be exciting news either way. If the Higgs boson does exist, we may finally be able to build a complete picture not only of how the universe works, but why its works the way it does. If it does not exist, the entire scientific community must to go back to the drawing board and begin investigating a new description of our physical universe. 2. Gravity and the mysterious graviton
We've all heard the story of how Newton's observation of an apple falling out of a tree led to his formulation of the law of gravitation. We also know that gravity is the always-attractive force that acts between objects. What you might not know, however, is that gravity is one of the most fundamental yet weakest forces in the universe — so weak, in fact, that the physics world has yet to be able to explain precisely how it works. Sure, we are quite positive of gravity's existence — drop something and it crashes to the floor, easy enough — but if gravity is a force, according to the Standard Model, it must also have its own accompanying particle. The accompanying particle in question is called the graviton. Gravitons are tiny, massless particles that somehow tug on every bit of matter in the universe. Mysteriously, they are able to do this while being ridiculously weak on the planetary scale yet uncommonly strong in relation to, say, two positively charged protons. We don't know why it acts differently on planets versus elementary particles — heck, we don't even know how to detect them, although we have made various attempts to date. Since the scientific community has yet to come up with a concrete way to detect the graviton particle, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) was doing research between 2009 and 2011 to look for wave-like evidence of gravity. Scientists thought they could detect ripples in space-time that are thought to be caused by the acceleration of mass, but by the time the experiment was shut down, they had yet to find anything. There are facilities that have the equipment to continue the experiment, but...
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