Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Higgs boson for dummies

  1. Jul 6, 2012 #1
    Hey guys,

    Being interested in science (and living in Switzerland), I've been reading a lot about the Higgs boson in mainstream news. Unfortunately, the best thing I can get out of that kind of report is the overused analogy of some celebrity moving in a crowd. I have practically no understanding of QFT, but I'm doing a masters in theoretical chemistry which means I do have a good grasp on QM. I was wondering if you guys could explain to me what is the big deal with the Higgs boson . I get it that it gives mass to particles, but that doesn't really mean much to me. Why isn't there a particle that gives charge to particles? If it gives mass to particles, isn't it intimately connected with the gravitational force (even though it is not the graviton)? How do people at CERN know that what they have detected is a boson and how they know its mass?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 6, 2012 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

  4. Jul 9, 2012 #3
    My 'dummy' understanding is that the Higgs is the mass that is produced when mass-less ENERGY is converted into mass.
    The Higgs is NOT built from other particles, it acquires its mass DIRECTLY from mass-less energy.
    The decay of the Higgs is what produces OTHER particles which then combine and interact to produce other forms of mass & matter.

    I would like to know your layman's description of the Higgs.

    Jay Kosta
    Endwell NY USA
  5. Jul 10, 2012 #4
    This statement by JayKosta is incorrect.

    If, in a collision of elementary particles, there is energy available, any kind of elementary particle can be made directly out of that energy, without the Higgs as an intermediate state.
  6. Jul 10, 2012 #5
    So why is the Higgs such an important piece of the puzzle? Maybe Kosta's statements is true for the formation of massive gauge bosons (is it)?
  7. Jul 10, 2012 #6
    A clarification to my earlier post.....
    My understanding is that the Higgs DOES NOT depend on mass-containing particles for its creation. The only precursor of the Higgs boson is mass-less energy.

    Are there other particles that get created without the involvement of some mass-containing particle?

    This is strictly my layman's understanding, and I'm trying to understand the significance of the Higgs boson in layman's terms.

    Jay Kosta
    Endwell NY USA
  8. Jul 10, 2012 #7
    It is important puzzle, because it tells us why weak interactions are weak, and why we have electromagnetic and weak interactions to be different at low energies. (that's how I see it). It is part of the Electroweak theory of the Standard Model.
  9. Jul 10, 2012 #8
    I still have a hard time understanding, "it gives mass to other particles" property. I've always seen mass, charge and spin as intrinsic properties of particles. Guess I'm gonna have to delve a but deeper into QFD when I have time :P
  10. Jul 10, 2012 #9
    tha mass terms in the lagrangian appear in the form:
    M2 FmFm
    (where F is your field)

    When you put in the higg's mechanism (the potential V=λ (φφ*)22 (φφ*) with φ being your scalar field and after playing for a while with its form by doing some perturbations around the vaccum expectation value), initially massless fields (once SU(2)xU(1) ) in your Lagrangian, break into one massless which represents the photon "somehow" and so the U(1) symmetry -in fact it does the Hypercharge Y and Uy(1)-, and the massive vector fields which represent the W,Zs and so the weak interaction acting on isospin doublets (SU(2) )...
  11. Jul 12, 2012 #10
    In case anyone else is still interested, I think this guy is great (his whole channel is):

  12. Jul 13, 2012 #11
    so in qft photons are particles that come from the excitation of the four-potential, electrons are excitations of the dirac field (as are positrons), and like wise we will get gluons from a gluon field lagrangian etc.

    my understanding is that the higgs boson is the particle that comes for the excitation (like the creation operation on a vacuum of a field) of the higgs field, and all mass comes from the higgs field...

    but i am prolly wrong.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook