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Faster than Light, with no Mass.

  1. Jun 23, 2014 #1
    I have a question:

    With the detection of the Higgs Boson particle, if one were to remove all said particles from a ship, thus rendering it with no mass. Will it be possible to the travel at the speed of light or faster? Now mind you, this will not break Einstein's E=mc2. Since there is no mass to speak of there will be no need to calculate infinite mass or infinite energy.

    Please keep in mind, this question does not ask "How does one remove the Boson particles?" Instead it deals with a theoretical means of FTL travel with no, or unknown, consequences to relativity.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 23, 2014 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    You need to distinguish between "Higgs particles" and the "Higgs field". In quantum field theory, "particles" are excitations of their corresponding "fields."

    What gives normal particles (quarks and leptons) mass is the existence of the Higgs field (more precisely, a "nonzero vacuum expectation value of the Higgs field"), regardless of whether there are any excitations that correspond to actual Higgs particles. As far as I know, there is no way to "remove" the Higgs field, even in principle.
  4. Jun 23, 2014 #3
    My apologies, I should of specified "field" instead of "particles". With that being said, I didn't want to speculate how one can remove the field, rather work to the following step, once the field is removed, what are the consequences or rather the possibilities.

    Here, I am assuming that there would be no mass/energy relation. I've been trying to use:

    ε0 = μV2

    where μ is mass.

    However since there is no mass (0) the math doesn't work out. I'm afraid that I've divided by 0 and broken the universe.
  5. Jun 23, 2014 #4


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    Questions such as these often don't have any answers, because they are of the type, "if we break physics, what does physics say will happen?". Well, if you break physics, then anything can happen. Physics has no say on what might happen if it is false.
  6. Jun 23, 2014 #5


    Staff: Mentor

    One thing is to break it completely, another is to ask what would happen if the parameter values were different. We do not need to remove the Higgs field to ask those questions, it suffices to ask what would happen if the Higgs vacuum expectation value was zero - alternatively, if we take a more mundane approach, what would happen if the elementary particle masses were zero. However, the answer might depend on exactly which of those questions is asked and the amount of detail we go into.
  7. Jun 23, 2014 #6


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    You cannot remove the Higgs field, it is everywhere. But even if you could, it would not help:
    If you remove the mass of particles, or (easier) remove everything that has mass, you end up with just massless particles - those travel at the speed of light.
  8. Jun 23, 2014 #7
    Actually, I believe we are still uncertain as to whether the Higgs field can be removed or not.
    If it can, you would do it by simply waiting for several trillion or quadrillion years. As I understand it, the exact half life would be dependent on the exact masses of the Higgs particle and the Top quark.

    This article is a year old. If anything new has happened in the meantime, I hope someone posts an update to this thread:

    In any case, as I understand it, if the Higgs field disappeared (or dropped to a lower state), particles with mass would simply launch to the speed of light. They would still have their mass but, like photons, would have a zero rest mass.

    It's important to note that this mode of travel has its down side. Of course, stopping will be a problem. Also, although your ship, along with the rest of the universe, would be traveling at the speed of light, different parts of your ship will be traveling in different directions. In fact, I believe even atomic nuclei would dissolve, but I'll leave that question to the real physicists.
  9. Jun 23, 2014 #8


    Staff: Mentor

    The article is about the possible meta-stability of the Higgs vacuum, which is related to whether or not the vacuum state we are currently occupying is the lowest energy state of the theory or not. If not, it could be that some region of the Universe tunnels to the true vacuum after which this region will start expanding at essentially the speed of light. Stopping the ship would be the least of your problems as physics will change so drastically that there is nothing left that ca be called a ship after the expanding bubble has passed.
  10. Jun 23, 2014 #9


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    The way I see it, the Higgs field was introduced to explain the W+, W- and Z bosons having mass. This is due to the experimental observation that the weak force is a short distance force. If you remove the Higgs, you either have to remove the experimental observation that weak force = short distance, which is breaking physics because in physics you're not allowed to just remove experimental evidence, or you would simply have to introduce another mechanism by which the W+, W-, and Z boson obtain mass. Either way I don't see this thread as being fruitful.

    In addition, the masses of particles are not arbitrary, and nor are they parameters that can be predicted in the standard model that we can just tweak. They are renormalized parameters that are experimentally verified. I don't see how this thread can get anywhere without breaking the standard model.
  11. Jun 23, 2014 #10


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    SO... you're the one !!! ... :grumpy: Lol


    From a paper by Coleman and de Luccia...


    Last edited: Jun 23, 2014
  12. Jun 23, 2014 #11


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    Well in fact if there was no Higgs field, then as already stated the particles would be massless IF we would want to impose the Standard Model Yang Mills Theory as it is...
    The thing you should ask is why we introduced the Higgs Field at the first place?
    It's in order to Spontaneously Break the symmetry of SU(2)xU(1) some smart scientists in the past proposed as the gauge theory of the Standard Model....
    So if you had not a Higgs field at which you give a vev, then the symmetry wouldn't be broken. And that wouldn't lead to mass terms for the fermions either.
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