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Analogies for Symmetry Breaking and the Higgs Particle

  1. Jul 5, 2012 #1
    Any good ones?

    I like this one:

    For full symmetry, imagine a marble and a bowl with rotational symmetry. Drop the marble into the bowl. It will oscillate back and forth and settle down in the center. The bowl+marble system still has rotational symmetry. If you push the marble out of the center, it will oscillate back and forth with the same frequency no matter what direction.

    For broken symmetry, imagine a bowl with a hump in the middle, but still with rotational symmetry. A bowl like a juice squeezer. Drop a marble into that bowl. It will come to rest in the trough around the hump. The bowl+marble system has lost its rotational symmetry. Furthermore, if you push the marble, it will oscillate radially, but keep going without oscillating tangentially.

    It seems to me that the tangential motion, with the marble following the trough, is a Goldstone mode of the marble's motion. It has zero "mass" (oscillation frequency). Would that be a good way of explaining Goldstone modes?

    One can even illustrate symmetry restoration with high-enough temperature in this analogy, by making the marble move faster and faster. If fast enough, then it is not much affected by the central hump.

    I may have seen this analogy somewhere, but if I didn't, I was inspired by the shape of the Higgs particle's potential.

    I've also thought of using crystallization as an analogy for symmetry breaking, but unlike a marble in a bowl, it does not have dynamics.

    I've seen various analogies for the Higgs particle. Any favorites?
  2. jcsd
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