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The Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism and its scalar boson

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The impressive developments in physics during the first half of the 20th Century made it then conceivable that ALL phenomena, from the atomic scale to the edge of the visible universe, be governed solely by two known laws, that of classical general relativity, Einstein’s generalisation of Newtonian gravity, and quantum electrodynamics, the quantum version of Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory.

But gravitational and electromagnetic interactions are long range interactions. The discovery of subatomic structures revealed the existence of other fundamental interactions that are short range, that is, negligible at larger distance scales. At the beginning of the 1960s, the theoretical interpretation of short range fundamental interactions seemed to pose insuperable obstacles.

In 1964, Brout and Englert, and independently Higgs, postulated the existence of “scalar bosons” (or BEH bosons), which condense to produce a field pervading the universe. The condensation provides a mechanism for generating short range forces, leads to a dynamical origin for the elementary particle masses and opens new perspectives on the unity of the laws of nature.

This BEH mechanism, its consequences and the properties of its scalar boson, whose impressive discovery at CERN confirmed its validity, will be explained.

This talk is part of the Dirac Lecture series.

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