Higgs field

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A computer generated image of a Higgs interaction

The Higgs Field is an invisible energy field that exists everywhere in the universe. The field is accompanied by what may be a fundamental particle called the Higgs Boson, which it uses to continuously interact with other particles. As particles pass through the field they are endowed with the property of mass, much as an object passing through treacle (or molasses) will become slower.

Although apparent, mass is not generated by the Higgs field, as creation of matter or energy would conflict with the laws of conservation; mass is, however, transferred to particles from the field, which contains the relative mass in the form of energy. Once the field has endowed a formerly massless particle the particle slows down because it has become heavier.

If the Higgs field did not exist, particles would not have the mass required to attract one another, and would simply float around freely at light-speed.

The process of giving a particle mass is known as the Higgs Effect.

The Higgs Effect[change | edit source]

The Higgs Effect was first theorized in 1964 by Peter Higgs and its existence has been proven. Researchers at the CERN particle accelerator in Geneva announced the discovery of a Higgs-Boson-like particle on July 4, 2012; further analysis of the data has proved that it is the Higgs-Boson. This effect was seen as a missing piece of the Standard Model.

According to the gauge theory, a branch of the Standard Model dealing with force-carrying particles, all force-carrying particles should be massless; the particles that carry weak force, however, have mass due to the Higgs Effect. Scientifically, the Higgs Effect breaks SU(2) symmetry; (SU stands for special unitary, a type of matrix, and 2 refers to the size of the matrices involved).

A symmetry of a system is an operation such as rotation or displacement done to the system which leaves it unchanged. A symmetry also provides a rule for how something should always act unless acted on by an outside force. An example is a Rubik's Cube. If we take a solved Rubik's cube and scramble it by making whatever moves we want, it is still possible to solve the puzzle. Since each of the moves we can make leaves the Rubik's cube solvable, we can say that these moves are 'symmetries' of the Rubik's cube. Together, they form what we call the symmetry group of the Rubik's cube. Making any of these moves doesn't change the puzzle, since each move leaves it solvable. But, we can break this symmetry by taking the cube apart, and putting it back together with one of the corner pieces rotated to a different position. No matter what moves we try, it is no longer possible to solve the Rubik's cube. Breaking the cube apart and putting it back together in the wrong way is the 'outside force': Without this outside force, nothing we do to the cube makes it unsolvable. The symmetry of the Rubik's cube is that it stays solvable whatever moves we make, as long as we don't take apart the cube.

Creation of Higgs Boson[change | edit source]

The way that the SU(2) symmetry is broken is known scientifically as "Spontaneous symmetry breaking"." Spontaneous means random or unexpected, Symmetries are the rules that are being changed, and Breaking refers to the fact that the symmetries are no longer the same. The result of spontaneously breaking the SU(2) symmetry can be a Higgs Boson.

The elevated areas of the so-called "Mexican Hat Potential" are values at which particles have mass

Reason for Higgs Effect[change | edit source]

The Higgs effect occurs because nature wants to be at its lowest energy state. Although this may seem weird, if you hold a pencil and then drop it, the pencil will release some of the potential energy stored in its relative distance from the center of the earth. This released potential energy is converted into kinetic energy. Likewise, the Higgs Effect will happen because gauge bosons near a Higgs Field will want to be in their lowest energy states, and this would break at least one symmetry.

To justify giving mass to a would-be massless particle, scientists were forced to do something out of the ordinary. They assumed that vacuums (empty space) actually had energy, and that way, if a particle that we think of as massless were to enter it, the energy from the vacuum would be transferred into that particle, giving it mass. A mathematician named Jeffrey Goldstone proved that if you violate a symmetry, (for example, a symmetry with a Rubik's cube would be if you state that the corners must always be rotated 0 or 3 times to be solvable (it works)), a reaction will occur. In the case of the Rubik's cube, the cube will become unsolveable if violated. In the case of the Higgs field, something named after Jeffrey (and another scientist who worked with him named Yoichiro Nambu) is produced, a Nambu-Goldstone Boson. This is an excited or energetic form of the vacuum, which can be graphed revealing that shown above. The elevated areas are where the Nambu-Goldstone Bosons allow particles to have mass, under the energy provided by a Higgs Field.