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Higgs field and my non-physicist friend

  1. Jun 3, 2015 #1
    I have heard many physicists in the media attempt to describe the Higgs boson in terms of analogies. Many seem to my amateur physicist mind to fall down immediately. One such analogy is that particles with mass interact with the Higgs field as if swimming through treacle. This is particularly awful, since even Newton's laws preclude the idea that objects in free space experience drag on account of their mass. My non-physicist friend, with an agenda I'll leave you to guess at, was picking this apart with me recently.

    I tried to explain our concept of mass as a measure of inertia, or resistance to change in velocity, in terms of what I knew of the Higgs field, but couldn't really manage it. Can't we do better than the treacle or famous-person-in-a-crowd analogies? For example, the treacle analogy covers why it's hard to get a massive object moving, but falls down when we try to explain it's resistance to stopping.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 3, 2015 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    I have never seen a really good analogy. You can try to stretch the analogy with the crowd if you assume everyone is walking in the same direction and keeps doing that without external forces, but ... well....
    You can always tell him that he should learn the actual physics (or trust those who did) due to the lack of analogies.
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