I've long been intrigued by the idea that mathematics explains the physical world so well. Why should equations that spring from the heads of physicists and mathematicians have anything at all to do with, say, the cosmos? As improbable as that seems, mathematics has repeatedly been used to predict the existence of undiscovered things in the universe, and it has repeatedly been proven to be correct.
Brian Greene, the Columbia University theoretical physicist and science writer, uses that notion to explain the discovery of the Higgs boson in as clear and insightful a piece as I've read anywhere. He talks not so much about the Higgs boson itself, but about the Higgs field, with which it is allied. This field represents a different kind of matter from anything else we know, and Greene helps us grasp why and how it is unique, and what that means for physics, for physicists, and for life as we know it. The Higgs field was first discovered in mathematics, and only within the past year have researchers once again found that the math anticipated observations of the natural world. The discovery of the Higgs boson last year at the LHC accelerator has now confirmed that the mathematics was correct.
If you still don't quite get the excitement over the Higgs discovery–I confess I was one of those–then you should read this piece. It's fascinating science and great cocktail party chatter, depending, of course, on whose cocktail party you go to. And whether you expect to be invited back.