Why you should care about Tuesday’s physics Nobel announcement

British physicist Peter Higgs (right) and Belgium physicist Francois Englert theorized the particle that the universe relies on for creating mass. Their efforts were honored today with the Nobel Prize in Physics. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP.

British physi­cist Peter Higgs (right) and Bel­gium physi­cist Fran­cois Englert the­o­rized the par­ticle that the uni­verse relies on for cre­ating mass. Their efforts were hon­ored today with the Nobel Prize in Physics. Photo by Fab­rice Coffrini/​AFP.

As you’ve prob­ably already heard, the Nobel com­mittee announced that its award in physics this year is going to Bel­gier François Englert  and Briten Peter Higgs, the guys that the­o­rized the Higgs boson more than half a cen­tury before its even­tual dis­covery last year. The Higgs is a sub­atomic par­ticle that is so tiny and elu­sive it evaded thou­sands of sci­en­tists’ best efforts for decades. It’s impor­tant because it gives the uni­verse mass. If you’d like to learn more, I’ve written about it a few times, see here, here, and here, for example. But even after reading you may still wonder why you should care about such a dis­covery. Everyone knows there’s mass after all, so why do we need to spend time wor­rying about how it got there? I turn, once again, to the ever elo­quent Toyoko Ori­moto to explain the beauty and sig­nif­i­cance of this kind of research. (For a longer ver­sion of Ori­moto waxing pas­sionate on par­ticle physics, see her TED talk here.)