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Four Higgs Field Questions

  1. Jul 16, 2012 #1
    1. What is the "cause" of the field and how can the Higgs field be flat and permeate all of space or is it a property of space itself?

    2. Will the field weaken as space expands? In other words, as the distance between objects approaches infinity, will that impact the Higgs field?

    3. We know that spacetime is impossibly twisted within a black hole. If the Higgs field is flat and even across all of spacetime then what impact does this sort of twisted spacetime have on the field?

    4. Finally, if matter cannot exist in a physical state inside of a black hole then there are no particles that can gain mass from the Higgs field. If no particles exist to gain mass from the Higgs field then how does a black hole remain intact?

    Thanks in advance! Just curious about some of these things after reading about the latest discovery at CERN.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 16, 2012 #2
    1. It isn't a property of space, it's a scalar field that takes a value, called the vacuum expectation value, at every point in space. This value is the sane everywhere.

    2. No, it doesn't. If it did, particle masses would constantly be decreasing over time since the beginning of the universe.

    Be careful about analogies regarding general relativity. When we talk about the curvature of space-time, we talk about the changes in the metric of space-time. Thinking about space as being some kind of 'thing' is misleading, as GR is about geometry.

    So, I'm going to assume that the third question translates to 'how does the Higgs field behave in a gravitational field?' to which the answer is that it doesn't make a difference. Once again, if it did, particle masses would vary considerably.

    4. We don't know what happens to matter in a black hole once it hits the singularity. However, a black hole is just an immensely massive point surrounded by a gravitational field strong enough to prevent light from escaping (since light always travels at c, it runs it around in circles). So, the question doesn't make sense considering this.
  4. Jul 16, 2012 #3
    I'd like to add what may be a new question here - or may be a restating of question #1. Please be kind, I'm not a physicist nor a student, just someone who takes a keen interest in quantum and high-energy physics.

    My understanding of the Higgs field is that, as stated, it permeates everything and is everywhere. My understanding of the Higgs particle is that this particle, very short-lived, is created by a high-energy collision and its interaction with the Higgs field. This is what the LHC experiments are all about.

    My question is this - If the Higgs field is (partly) responsible for creating a Higgs particle, what propagates the Higgs field? It *seems to me that the field must be comprised of *something in order to create the observed particle. I'm thinking of an analogy like "radio waves are propagated by ions in the atmosphere". Or is my understanding totally faulty?

    Thanks for your kindness, and this forum. I'm learning a lot already!
  5. Jul 16, 2012 #4
    It isn't propagated by anything. Remember that radio waves are excitations in the electromagnetic field, which is also always present.

    In QFT everything is fields. All particles emerge as excitations of these fields. Why do these fields exist? That's essentially asking why there are three forces of nature instead of seven. There isn't a physical answer.
  6. Jul 18, 2012 #5
    Thanks, Mark. "There isn't a physical answer." As a professional, how satisfied are you with that as an explanation? This is not snark, it's a sincere request for information. Do you think there's a level below the Higgs field/boson?
  7. Jul 18, 2012 #6
    Well, I'm certainly not a professional. I'm just a sophomore in high school who has studied some physics on my own.

    It works for me. Like I said, it could be made into an enormous philosophical question about why the universe is the way it is. That isn't a scientific question, as there is no emprical way to get an answer to it.

    Are you asking if I believe the Higgs boson is a composite particle? No, there isn't any evidence for that, nor any reason to believe so. And I'm sure there are a large amount of technical reasons it could never work.
  8. Jul 18, 2012 #7
    Keep in mind that we are talking about a physical phenomenon. Quantum Field Theory, bosons, fermions etc. are models that we have devised that accurately describe observed phenomena. For all we know, the truth could be something completely different.

    A good example is the electron, or even light itself. 150 years ago, our understanding of what these are was vastly different, albeit it agreed with the experiments. Until of course there came along other experiments that showed that the models were lacking.

    So, to make a long story short, asking 'what' the Higgs field is, or 'why' it exists are philosophical questions, not really related to science. Science deals with describing nature, and devising mathematical models that are based on experimental observation, in order to describe observed phenomena and predict scenarios that obey the devised laws.
  9. Jul 18, 2012 #8
    The crucial difference is that experimentalists of the time were forced to make these conclusions based off of macroscopic phenomena. For example, the wave nature of light was assumed based off of Young's double-slit experiment. We conclude that theories like QFT are correct because their predictions are within our experimental capabilities. We aren't making these conclusions because these theories affect macroscopic phenomena indirectly, we can check the microscopic scale with particle accelerators. Concepts that are fundamental to QFT like fermions and bosons are in the books.

    Anyways, this is getting off topic.
  10. Jul 18, 2012 #9


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    Hi Gene! I just want to make an addition (Mark M has already touched it).
    Radio waves are - just like light (visible, UV, infrared), microwaves, X-rays, gammawaves etc) - all electromagnetic waves (see Electromagnetic spectrum). These waves propagate freely by themselves in vacuum, without losing energy (ideally). They do not need a classical "medium" to propagate in. You can verify this yourself by just looking up at the sky at night; the light from stars is electromagnetic waves which have propagated for many++ years through empty space. Further, electromagnetic waves are actually quantized; they're made up of small "packets" we call photons which each have the energy E=hv (E=energy, h=Planck's constant, v=frequency).

    If the absence of a classical "medium" is troublesome to accept, you can think of the medium being made up of different fields with certain properties (in the case of light, the electromagnetic field).

    I'd also like to give an analogy (rather quick and dirty, but it might be helpful); I suppose you know that if you throw let's say a ball out into empty space, it will forever travel in a straight line with constant velocity (it will never lose any of its energy); nothing will change this unless the ball is disturbed by something else (Newton's First Law). Suppose you do the same but instead of a ball you throw out two balls with a bar attached between them (like some sort of barbell with weights or bolas). That is, you throw the object so it will be rotating around a common center. This object will do the same as the ball, but it will also be rotating (oscillating) forever (ideally). And now you've got yourself an oscillation which travels forever by itself without any classical medium. Remember, this is only a crude analogy; it is definitely not meant to be a description of how photons or e.g. Higgs excitations behave.
  11. Jul 19, 2012 #10
    Indeed. My post was meant for GeneM55, who was concerned about why we are not worried about not knowing 'what' these things are and 'why' they are there. I am merely pointing out that all these things are, as you said, concepts. They do work very accurately, but they are still man-made constructs (and we are very happy with them). It works pretty much like a language. We don't wonder 'why' a door is a door, but once we agree on the concept of a door we can describe it, measure it, simulate it, and shut it :biggrin:
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