Online course

The Discovery of the Higgs Boson

Should we be excited about the Higgs boson? Find out more about particle physics and understanding the universe.

Why join the course?

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

Download video: standard or HD

What topics will you cover?

  • Theoretical description of physical phenomena
  • From Maxwell to Einstein: the world at the atomic scale
  • A theory of matter and light
  • From QED to QCD and the weak force
  • The Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism and the Standard Model
  • Experimental evidence for the Standard Model
  • Beyond the Standard Model

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

  • Available now
    This course started 4 February 2019

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Discuss fundamental building blocks of the Standard Model
  • Explore Quantum Mechanics and Special Relativity
  • Describe elementary Particle Physics

Who is the course for?

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.

Who will you learn with?

Christos Leonidopoulos

Particle Physics: Electroweak Symmetry-Breaking mechanism, Exotica searches, hadron-collider triggers, future colliders.

Luigi Del Debbio

Professor of Theoretical Physics

Who developed the course?

Founded in 1583, the University of Edinburgh is one of the world’s top universities and is globally recognised for research, innovation and high-quality teaching.

Join this course

Start this course for free, upgrade for extra benefits, or buy Unlimited to access this course and hundreds of other short courses for a year.

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  • Access to this course for 9 weeks

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  • Access to this course for as long as it’s on FutureLearn
  • Access to this course’s tests as well as a print and digital Certificate of Achievement once you’re eligible
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  • Access to this course, and hundreds of other FutureLearn short courses and tests for a year
  • A printable digital Certificate of Achievement on all short courses once you’re eligible
  • The freedom to keep the content of any of the courses you've gained a digital Certificate of Achievement on
  • The flexibility to complete your choice of short courses in your own time within the year
Find out more about upgrades or Unlimited.
Introductory offer. Available until 11 May 2019. T&Cs apply.