Nature Middle East | House of Wisdom

The social aspect of the Higgs boson

On any average day, my Twitter feed is filled with political tweets from across the Arab world as revolutionaries struggle with post (and continuous) uprisings and revolutions across the region. Today, however, it looks quite different. Today it’s mostly filled up with science tweets – and they are coming from the unlikeliest tweeps too!

Here’s an excerpt:

“@MaieZeiny: Excited to be watching the latest findings of #Higgsboson will we finally discover how the universe really started? parallel universes?”

ATLAS Experiment

© 2012 CERN

While everyone is busy with their own things normally, today all eyes were turned towards CERN where scientists were announcing that experiments using the Large Hadron Collider have finally yielded proof of the presence of the Higgs boson, the last missing particle from the Standard Model theory, nicknamed the “god particle”. It is supposedly what gives all the basic building blocks of the universe their mass.

As physicists from across the globe gathered at the CERN auditorium for the announcement, millions around the world tuned in for the webcast of the event while others following live blogs from there. The two working research groups at CERN, ATLAS and CMS, announced they are 99.999% sure they have detected the Higgs boson, with the hall erupting in a standing ovation at the end.

This speaks volume to the inter-connective nature of science. People all around the world let down whatever they were doing or fighting for for a while just to follow what is possibly the biggest science discovery of our generation. The very nature of science is that it does not recognize country borders since it speaks to the very innate inquisitive human mind.

Beyond the scientific importance of discovering the Higg boson and how our universe works,  I also see an incredible social aspect to the discovery. It speaks volumes of the cross-boundary nature of science. It somehow brought everyone together for that brief moment in time.

As people across the Arab world are all dealing with their politics, revolutions, human rights issues and uprisings, science speaks to all of us equally and we become one. The only two human endeavours that are cross-boundary at this massive scale are art and science.

Science diplomacy is poised as a powerful tool to bridge gaps that have been there for too long. The Higgs boson announcement today – and the international response to it, is proof that science might well be one of the most powerful tools to bring people from around the world together for a common cause: our hunger for knowledge.


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    Daniel Wagner said:

    Dear Mr Yahia, it seems to me that in addition to art and science there is another human endeavour that is cross-boundary at this massive scale: sport. Respectfully yours, Prof. Daniel Wagner, Weizmann Institute of Science (Rehovot, Israel).