Related: Eureka! Physicists celebrate evidence of particle

While people across the United States celebrated the Fourth of July with hotdogs and fireworks — cornerstones of American life — scientists at the European Center of Nuclear Research were celebrating the discovery of the cornerstone of particle physics.

The Higgs boson, known as the "God particle," is the last fundamental piece of the standard model of particle physics to be discovered experimentally. It is seen as the key to understanding why matter has mass.

"The discovery announced today in Geneva represents a quantum leap (literally) in our understanding of nature at its fundamental scale, and the culmination of a half-century of dedicated work by tens of thousands of scientists using technology that has been invented for the task, and it should be celebrated on these accounts alone," Lawrence Krauss wrote at Slate. "The discovery of the Higgs says that 'nothing' is getting ever more interesting."