The Higgs field is hypothesized to be present everywhere in space and is what gives things the property of mass. The Higgs boson is a particle that appears when the Higgs field is excited. The Higgs field can be thought of as a bunch of particles or as waves. Imagine a swimming pool or bathtub where the water seems continuous (wave), but is actually made of up of lots and lots of individual water molecules (particles) - as you move around, you interact with the water. This is what all of space is, it is full of energy and is not empty.
As particles interact in space with the Higgs, they can't travel as fast as the speed of light, so they have mass. Particles such as the electron don't interact much with the Higgs and so don't have much mass. The top quark is very massive or heavy because it interacts a lot with the Higgs.
We often refer to particles as being heavy or light when talking about mass, but weight is actually referring to the impact of the force of gravity on mass rather than the mass itself. The Higgs is important because without mass all particles would be zipping around of the speed of light. Under these conditions, atoms and molecules would not be able to form, and the world of matter as we know it would not exist.
In 2012, two collaborations of scientists working at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland discovered a particle that could be the Higgs boson. They will continue to study how the particle is produced and decays to see if it is the particle described by the Standard Model.Next Question & Answer Back to Topics