Verifying the existence of the Higgs Boson particle is a very big deal- which is why the media have dubbed it the "God particle" Discovery of this particle reinforces the standard model of particle physics, which claims to explain how the universe works. It also reinforces the quantum model. What it means for the rest of us depends on our perspective.
For the uninitiated (most of us), a boson is one of two types of elementary particles that quantum theorists believe make up the universe. The other type includes protons, electrons, and the other particles most of us call matter. Quantum theorists postulate that matter acquires mass by passing through a viscous field called a Higgs field (named after Peter Higgs, a University of Edinburgh physicist), composed of particles called bosons. The assumption has been that this ‚Äúsomething‚Äù held together all the matter in the universe. Now scientists have found hard evidence that boson particles do exist.
When pondering subatomic particles that bind the universe together, one is trying to understand something so tiny that it can’t be observed directly, even using the most advanced technology. Yet innumerable boson particles form a field so vast that they hold together an incomprehensibly huge reality.
For some, this is like the feelings expressed in Psalm 8:3 (but a thousand times more awesome): "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You care for him?" It’s a reminder that each of us is merely a tiny carbon-based organism existing for a brief moment on a small planet, no more significant than a grain of sand on a beach.
At least that’s one way to look at it. Another way to see it is that in all this vastness, insofar as we know human beings are the only ones aware of this awesome complexity. Only we strive to know and understand. Therefore, what we do in our brief lives on this small planet may be the only thing that matters. It is, perhaps, precisely what the Jewish philosopher and scholar Maimonides meant when he said, "Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world."
It is this aware and unbelievably complex human being- this life, this soul- that we as nurses are privileged to touch, to heal, and sometimes to accompany in or out of our tiny world. Thus, it behooves us to use our sliver of time well with our patients. Despite increasing time pressures, we can choose to be more than merely competent-we can choose to be compassionate, kind, and just. It takes no more time, but it makes a world of difference. The Higgs boson may glue everything together, but we are the ones who give it meaning.
Leah Curtin, RN, ScD(h), FAAN
Executive Editor, Professional Outreach
American Nurse Today