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University of Edinburgh

The Discovery of the Higgs Boson

University of Edinburgh via FutureLearn


The discovery of a new fundamental particle at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), CERN is the latest step in a long quest seeking to answer one of physics’ most enduring questions: why do particles have mass? The experiments’ much anticipated success confirms predictions made decades earlier by Peter Higgs and others, and offers a glimpse into a universe of physics beyond the Standard Model.

As Professor Peter Higgs continues his inspiring role at Edinburgh University’s School of Physics & Astronomy, the experiments at the LHC continue.

This free online course introduces the theoretical tools needed to appreciate the discovery, and presents the elementary particles that have been discovered at the tiniest scales ever explored. Beginning with basic concepts in classical mechanics, the story unfolds through relativity and quantum mechanics, describing forces, matter and the unification of theories with an understanding driven by the tools of mathematics.

Narrating the journey through experimental results which led to the discovery in 2012, the course invites you to learn from a team of world-class physicists at Edinburgh University. Learners participate in discussion of the consequences of the Higgs boson, to physics and cosmology, and towards a stronger understanding and new description of the universe.

Photo of Professor Higgs © Peter Tuffy, The University of Edinburgh

The course for its most part requires a basic level of mathematical skills, at the level of a final-year school pupil.

Some of the video lectures are significantly more advanced and include University-level math material. However, people encountering difficulties with the most advanced material should still be able to answer the quizzes and complete the course successfully. A basic knowledge of physics is helpful, but not required.


  • Theoretical description of physical phenomena
    • Why is the discovery of the Higgs Boson important?
    • Understanding the Higgs discovery plot
    • Introduction to week 1
    • Newtonian dynamics and conservation laws
    • Conservation laws and symmetry
    • In conversation with Peter Higgs
    • Summary
    • Glossary
  • From Maxwell to Einstein: the world at the atomic scale
    • Introduction to week 2
    • Maxwell's equations
    • Special relativity
    • Basic ideas of quantum mechanics
    • In conversation with Peter Higgs
    • Summary
  • A theory of matter and light
    • Introduction to week 3
    • Relativity and quantum mechanics
    • Quantum electrodynamics
    • In conversation with Peter Higgs: part one
    • In conversation with Peter Higgs: part two
    • Summary
  • From QED to QCD and the weak force
    • Introduction to week 4
    • Quantum chromodynamics
    • The electroweak force
    • Spontaneous symmetry breaking
    • In conversation with Peter Higgs
    • Summary
  • The Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism and the Standard Model
    • Introduction to week 5
    • The Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism and the Standard Model
    • Higgs production and decay in the Standard Model
    • In conversation with Peter Higgs
    • Summary
  • Experimental evidence for the Standard Model
    • Introduction to week 6
    • Early experimental searches for the Higgs Boson
    • Searches at the LHC and the discovery of the Higgs boson
    • The next experimental steps
    • In conversation with Peter Higgs
    • The experimental challenges
    • Why is the sun burning so slowly?
    • Summary
  • Beyond the Standard Model
    • Introduction to week 7
    • Theories beyond the Standard Model
    • The hot Big Bang
    • The vacuum, the Higgs field and modern cosmology
    • In conversation with Peter Higgs
    • Bonus material: more footage from CERN
    • Summary

Taught by

Christos Leonidopoulos


4.3 rating, based on 7 Class Central reviews

4.7 rating at FutureLearn based on 14 ratings

Start your review of The Discovery of the Higgs Boson

  • Beniamino Di Maro
    This course cover about 400 years of physics, from classical mechanics to standard model and beyond. Peter Higgs and his team make a great work.Every teacher speaks about his section in extremely clear language.
    Congratulation to Peter Higgs and his Team!!!
  • Anonymous
    Hard, but very rewarding. Unbelievable wealth of information. The lecturers and the TAs engage in daily conversations with the participants, it is an amazing experience!
  • Shreyasi Chandra
  • Amar Doshi

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