The Secret to the Universe: A Crash Course (UPDATED)

UPDATED: 12.12 10:08 AM EST: If you were hoping for an early Christmas present, you will be disappointed. The discovery of the Higgs particle will not be confirmed until 2012 at the earliest, when scientists have been able to analyse more data. As the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) tweeted this morning:

For a more detailed summary of the Higgs search status, visit CERN's website.

What's the Big Idea?

Why do particles have mass?

After smashing hundreds of trillions of protons at the Large Hadron Collider, a giant particle accelerator in Switzerland, scientists may be closer than ever before to an answer. In fact, at a press conference scheduled for tomorrow morning at 8AM EST scientists from the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) will present a "progress report" on the search for the so-called 'Higgs particle' (a.k.a "God particle"), in what is expected to be a major announcement.  

Why might this be such a significant event? The reigning theory in particle physics known as the Standard Model offers us the best, albeit incomplete, picture of the particles and forces that make up our Universe. While this theory fails to incorporate the fundamental force of gravity, or account for the existence of dark matter, if the Higgs is located, scientists will have found "the key to the origin of particle mass." In other words, we will have a more complete understanding of how the Universe works. 

What's the Significance?

If the scientific discovery of the decade (or generation, or century -- who knows?) is announced tomorrow, and if we are to fully appreciate its significance, we must understand the context of this discovery, and how scientists have arrived here. 

For this essential primer we will turn to the Harvard particle physicist Lisa Randall, who in this video explains the design and goals of the 27 kilometer-wide proton-smasher known as the Large Hadron Collider.

Watch the video here:

As Randall intimates, there are other mysteries the Large Hadron Collider may unlock, including extra dimensional theories, which she addresses in this video below. 

Watch the video here:

Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @Daniel Honan

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