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*general idea*of the Higgs that's being described, but some of the details have me very confused, and I'm realizing that the confusion I'm feeling over the Higgs indicates I'm confused about what it means for something to be a "particle" in quantum physics altogether. So, I've got a handful of questions if that's okay. I don't know if any of these questions make sense, are stupid, or what. So If there's anything I ought to be reading instead of asking these questions, feel free to just tell me that...

1. The first and main thing confusing me is the way that descriptions of quantum physics, popular ones at least, seem to alternate back and forth between viewing fields as something that particles inhabit, and viewing a particle as being an "excitation of a field". Except I don't think, before I started looking at this Higgs stuff, i'd ever seen a clear explanation of what "excitation" meant. One of the "one page Higgs explanations" says:

Imagine a cocktail party of political party workers who are uniformly distributed across the floor, all talking to their nearest neighbours. The ex-Prime Minister enters and crosses the room. All of the workers in her neighbourhood are strongly attracted to her and cluster round her. As she moves she attracts the people she comes close to, while the ones she has left return to their even spacing. Because of the knot of people always clustered around her she acquires a greater mass than normal, that is she has more momentum for the same speed of movement across the room. Once moving she is hard to stop, and once stopped she is harder to get moving again because the clustering process has to be restarted.

...

Now consider a rumour passing through our room full of uniformly spread political workers. Those near the door hear of it first and cluster together to get the details, then they turn and move closer to their next neighbours who want to know about it too. A wave of clustering passes through the room. It may spread to all the corners or it may form a compact bunch which carries the news along a line of workers from the door to some dignitary at the other side of the room. Since the information is carried by clusters of people, and since it was clustering that gave extra mass to the ex-Prime Minister, then the rumour-carrying clusters also have mass.

As I understand this analogy, in the first case, the field is deforming because something's passing by it-- specifically some other particle which can interact with the Higgs field. But if the field just

*deforms*, and a ripple of some kind is passing through it, then that ripple, or "excitation", itself, is a "Higgs boson". Okay, I think I get that. Here's what I want to know, though:

Do

*other*fields work the same way? Like, the EM field. Is the idea that when a charged particle passes through an EM field, the EM field warps to accommodate the passing particle; but if the EM field just warps on its own, then that's a "photon"?

Is the implication then that ALL the kinds of particles can be viewed this way? Is there an electron "field", such that electrons can be viewed as an excitation or ripple of that field in the same manner higgs bosons are an excitation of the higgs field? Or are there only some particles that can be looked at like this? Just the bosons?

2. The next thing confusing me is the explanation of the Higgs field as being a "scalar field". This is actually something that's been confusing me for awhile-- following physics stuff I occasionally see references to "scalar" fields (such mentions are usually accompanied by a vague air of disgust, like "well, it's a nice theory, but it requires a new scalar"). The Wikipedia page on scalar fields says:

In quantum field theory, a scalar field is associated with spin 0 particles, such as mesons or bosons. The scalar field may be real or complex valued (depending on whether it will associate a real or complex number to every point of space-time). Complex scalar fields represent charged particles. These include the Higgs field of the Standard Model, as well as the pion field mediating the strong nuclear interaction.

Okay, so just to make sure I've got this right: a "scalar field" just means a field where every value is a single number rather than a vector, and the only "known" scalar fields are the Higgs and the Pion. That does make sense. What's a little bit confusing me though is the implication that the fields are scalar

*because*they are spin 0. Is there some kind of simple translation table somewhere where knowing something's spin tells you what kind of vector is described by each point in its field?

(I'm overall kind of curious, for the fields which are vectors rather than scalars, if there's some particular way to interpret the "vector". Is the idea that the EM field is a vector because each point is composed of a value for the electric field and also a value for the magnetic field?)

3. The last thing that's confusing me a bit comes from this one sentence in The Road To Reality:

One of the effects of the act of spontaneous symmetry breaking in the very early universe is taken to be that the Higgs field settles down to have a constant value everywhere. This value would fix an overall scale for the determination of the masses of all particles, the differing values of these masses being scaled by some numerical factor that depends upon the details of each particular particle.

3a. When he says "a constant value everywhere", surely this means "a constant value, except where deformed by the presence of a Higgs-interacting particle or a Higgs Boson"-- right?

I mean, most of the descriptions I'm seeing of how the Higgs field works mention or imply the idea of the Higgs field "bunching up" around massive particles or Higgs bosons. I'm trying to work out how to interpret this in light of the idea the Higgs field is just a mapping from points in space to complex numbers. I'd tend to take this as meaning that in the immediate area of some perturbation in the Higgs field (a Higgs Boson or a massive particle), the values of the Higgs field have a larger-than-normal magnitude, and then immediately around this would be a layer of smaller-than-normal magnitude, and it would gradually smooth out to the normal value it holds everywhere else. Is this basically right?

3b. If we assume the inflationary multiverse, could there be other areas of "the universe" where the Higgs field takes some different constant value? Would this make physics different, since the masses of everything are different?

3c. This question is probably just silly, but: If you could somehow, say you're a mad scientist from a comic book or something, cause the Higgs field to take a

*different*value from the standard in some localized area, would the masses of all the particles in that area change? If you caused the Higgs field to locally take a

*zero*value, would everything suddenly drop to zero rest mass and start flying off in all directions at the speed of light?