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Toeing the particle line

What on earth is the Higgs boson?

An intelligent person with a respectable grounding in science can easily spend an hour reading about it and end up with nothing to show for it but a sore head and an irrational desire to cry.

Now an astonishing 10,000 people, inspired by the discovery of the particle in the subterranean Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, have signed up to a free online seven-week course being run by Edinburgh University, which features interviews with Professor Peter Higgs and lectures by scientists at the university's Higgs Centre, explaining what it is and what its discovery means for science.

That's quite an achievement for a physics course. Thanks to Prof Higgs (and perhaps partly because the Large Hadron Collider sounds like a Bond villain's lair) particle physics has become popular. People who spent their school physics classes counting the minutes until break have been consumed by a thirst to understand this most fundamental part of the universe.

Hollywood films might be made about Prof Higgs one day, but in the mean time, FutureLearn's The Discovery of the Higgs Boson is the hottest ticket in town.

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