Higgs particles, also known as the Higgs Boson, are units that have been theorized in particle physics but, as of yet, have not been proven to exist. They are sometimes referred to as the God Particle because they are thought to be all around us, yet nearly undetectable. These are some of the same traits people associate with God, thus the reason for the name.
Higgs particles are thought to exist in a field known as the Higgs field. Both were named after the physicist that first developed the theory, Peter Higgs. In general, Higgs particles could explain what gives matter to mass, and thus composes the universe. In the most basic sense, it could help humans understand where we come from. That quest of self discovery, perhaps more than any other, is what drives physicists to search for Higgs particles.
Though Higgs particles are still theoretical, some say the best chance to find them may be a large machine that has come online in the summer of 2008 known as the Large Hadron Collider. This piece of equipment, buried underground, straddles the border between France and Switzerland. It is 17 miles (27 km) in circumference and is designed to cause protons to collide at nearly the speed of light.
This collision could offer clues into the design of the universe. In a sense, the Large Hadron Collider hopes to simulate the moment the universe theoretically came into existence, the Big Bang. If it can do so, evidence of Higgs particles may be part of that observation.
In 2008, Stephen Hawking, one of the world's most recognizable physicists, said more work would needed to be done before scientists would be successful in finding elusive Higgs particles. While some had their hopes pinned on the initial experiments in the Large Hadron Collider, Hawking believed it would be much more interesting if the particles were not found. That would encourage mankind to keep searching for answers.
In contrast, Higgs himself believes there is a great likelihood the Large Hadron Collider will find Higgs particles. If the Big Bang can be successfully re-created, then the particles that were in existence the most, before much other mass was created, would likely be evident. If it all went according to the plan of some, this would confirm the existence of Higgs particles. However, given the size of what is being looked for, and the nature of Higgs particles themselves, there is a chance they could remain ever elusive.