Another attempt to try to explain what the Higgs Boson is, from the senior editor at The Atlantic:
Part of why it’s been hard to figure out from the news stories what the Higgs boson is is there are actually three Higgs things under discussion: 1) the Higgs field, 2) the Higgs boson and 3) the Higgs mechanism.
*The Higgs field is a quantum field that the Standard Model of physics predicts pervades the universe and creates drag on particles.
*The Higgs boson is a sub-atomic particle that acts as the intermediary between the Higgs field and other particles. All fields are mediated by bosons, some of which pop into and out of existence depending on the state of the field, sort of like how rain drops emerge out of a cloud when it reaches a certain point. The electromagnetic field that pervades the universe, for example, is mediated by photons. Finding the Higgs boson would confirm that the Higgs field exists, and that field has long been postulated as a way of explaining an array of other physical phenomena.
* This interaction between the field, the boson and other particles is the Higgs mechanism. The precise nature of the mechanism is still being worked out, but it is through its complex interplay of fields and bosons (Higgs and non-Higgs) that particles acquire mass.
Because the Higgs field was hypothesized to be massless and continuous, and because of the particular properties of the Higgs boson — both massive and rapidly decaying — it was really hard to observe and measure any individual Higgs bosons — if, in fact, that’s what was measured recently — until the Large Hadron Collider came online with enough force and energy to slam some bosons out of the Higgs field into a state humans can measure.
So far I am struggling to find anybody who can give an explanation as to what practical value it will give, beyond helping to confirm the theory behind the Standard Model.