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Turn off the Higg's field and travel at the speed of light?

  1. Aug 14, 2012 #1
    Hi all !!

    Firstly, I am a computer science student, and I have very very very little idea about what I am talking about. That's why I am here.

    I dont understand what Higg's boson is, but after the recent confirmation, I watched a huge number of videos on the internet to get an intuitive understanding. I am simply curious.

    1. I remember reading somewhere that things with mass cannot travel at the speed of light because they have mass. To accelerate something with mass to the speed of light we would need infinite amount of energy.
    2. I came to know that it is the Higg's field that pervades all the universe that gives matter the property of mass.
    3. So if we can find a way to 'turn off' the Higg's field then can we send things at the speed of light? And when they are received, we can turn it on again and it will be normal once more.
    How wrong does that sound to you? Or is the only obstacle turning the higg's field on and off?

    Some more questions:
    1. For something that travels at the speed of light, time doesnt pass, right? So if I wanted to keep my bread fresh for the next 10 days, I could make it travel at the speed of light, in circles and after 10 days, get it back exactly as it was 10 days earlier.
    2. If I wanted to go 10 years in the future, I would simply circle at the speed of light for 10 years (with respect to world outside me), and then I would be back as young as before, but 10 years into the future. This is like time tourism.
    Most of this will still require a large amount of energy, but maybe we will get it from the starts directly in the future, and considering how many of them are there, we would never run out. So that should not be an issue.

    I understand most guys here know a hell of a lot about physics, and may find this post preposterous. Any of the things I have stated might be absurd or constitute a new level of stupidity, but as I said, because I dont know physics and can only imagine science fiction, I have asked this question here.

    Any input is welcome.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 14, 2012 #2


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    If we can find a way to change the fundamental laws of nature, it is just speculation what we can do - maybe everything, but it depends on the way we can change them.

    A world without electroweak symmetry breaking (without Higgs field) would look completely different. So different, even that "matter" you want to send at the speed of light would not exist in the known way. Apart from that, mass could still exist as binding energy.

    The question assumes that massive objects can travel at the speed of light, therefore it is meaningless. For massless particles, "passing time" is not well-defined.

    With some speed close to the speed of light, it would work. It would work with you, too. That is "just" an engineering problem.
  4. Aug 15, 2012 #3
    Hmm....thank you very much for your reply.

    Hmm...I kind of understand what you are saying here. So maybe this process will not be reversible. So we could 'delete' matter permanently from the universe? (violating the currently held law of conservation of mass/energy). As if we turn off the Higg's field on something, it is no longer matter and we can no longer interact with it in any way.

    Some more questions:
    1. Is the Higg's field uniform in strength across the universe or there may be spots where its is stronger/weaker. I think this amounts to asking if there are places in the universe where mass of carbon-12 is not 12 amu, but something else?
    I remember reading somewhere that even the universal gravitation constant is not constant throughout the universe, so I suppose what we consider fundamental laws are not 100% absolute. If they change naturally, I suppose somewhere in the future we can change them artificially too, right?

    2. How is Higg's field related to gravity? If there was no Higg's field, nothing would have mass, so gravity wouldn't be there. Do they have some deep connection?

    3. What does Higg's field have to do with dark matter, if anything at all? Or is the Higg's field such a fundamental thing that normal and dark matter is the same as far as Higg's field is concerned.

    You mean going into the future is totally possible according to the presently understood physics ???:eek:
    I thought it was written off in theory itself. So we can at least theoretically propel people at 99.999% speed of light, make them go in circles and get them back 'in the future' with negligible aging. That is so amazing. If its only a practical problem, I guess it will be done in the next 10-15 generations. Too bad I wont be around to see it.

    Is it theoretically possible to even visit the past, like the future in any way? I understand that theoretically it may be possible to view past events as read-only stuff, because if you could change stuff in the past, it would create weird paradoxes like killing your father, etc. (unless there really are parallel universes which would then spawn another different universe in which you are absent as the you from a different universe killed your father)

    Thank you very much for your reply.
  5. Aug 15, 2012 #4


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    Plenty of things are "theoretically" possible. The difficulty is in figuring out what things are ACTUALLY possible. Time travel to the past is generally not thought to be possible, but to my knowledge nothing explicitly forbids it. Various things such as wormhols are able to send things back in time according to theory, however this is highly speculative and would require exotic matter that isn't thought to exist.
  6. Aug 15, 2012 #5
    Thanks for the reply !

    By something being theoretically possible I not only mean that the current understanding of physics not forbid it, but that currently understood physics proves that all the ingredients are already there, and it is only a question of 'how' to mix them together to make that happen. In general I like to think that everything we can possibly think of is possible, and can be done eventually, I simply wanted to get an idea how much of that our current understanding of physics permits. So in the example you give, as current physics has not proven exotic matter and wormholes to exist, I wouldn't say they are 'theoretically possible' because they are not proven even in theory, I can only say that they are 'not theoretically impossible' because theory doesn't write them off either-- the two things have a very important difference. There would be an infinite number of things that are 'not theoretically impossible' like a divine creator.

    I think ANYTHING that is 'theoretically possible' is practically possible and can be done eventually, its 'just' that we have some practical barriers, like requirement of an enormous amount of energy, which make things impractical right now, but they can be done. Like making a huge hollow sphere with the inside surface as solar panel that covers an entire star. Strictly according to the laws of physics, I guess, we can make such a thing and get as much energy as we want, the 'only' problem is how. Like mfb says these are 'only engineering problems' and their solutions would not require us to revise our existing understanding of the laws of the universe.
  7. Aug 15, 2012 #6


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    Current physics has absolutely no way to modify the fundamental laws of nature at all, everything related to this is pure speculation. And one could argue that this has to be impossible: If you can modify something, it cannot be a fundamental law. You would have to replace those set of laws by laws how you can change the standard model physics.

    Right. And astronauts on the ISS already do this by some microseconds per year ;). But you cannot come back afterwards.

    If it is possible to travel to the past (that is a big "if"), I would expect self-consistency of the universe.

    PS: Peter Higgs already has an "s" in his name, it is not "Higg's".
  8. Aug 15, 2012 #7


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    So Higgs's name could still have an apostrophe - like St. James's Park. Fundamental spelling is as hard as fundamental particles, when you're dealing with English.
  9. Aug 15, 2012 #8


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    Cryogenics to the rescue! Also, I am told that binding is responsible for about 90% of all mass, and the higgs is only responsible for particles in certain states, I cant remember. (I don't know if this was mentioned earlier)
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2012
  10. Aug 15, 2012 #9
    I don't think this question falls into the same catagory. Nobody is suggesting we change the laws of physics. He is simply asking about the implications of placing an object into a space with no Higgs field. We can create a space with little or no electromagnetic field by using a Faraday cage. Maybe once we understand the Higgs field a way could be found to reduce or eliminate it in a certain space. Maybe not. I don't know, but it seems like it's at least a ligitimate question.
  11. Aug 16, 2012 #10
    I agree. I worded the post incorrectly. But many of the laws we consider fundamental right now might turn out to be approximations that work correctly if some conditions are met, and fail in some special conditions. Looking at history, and how much of the universe remains to be explored, I would say we will be replacing our fundamental laws with better ones from time to time.

    Read about this a little more, and saw that there is a time dilation record too, but very small of 0.02 seconds by a Russian cosmonaut. Very interesting.:bugeye:

    Thanks for the term. Gave me more things to read.

    Sorry about that. Didn't give it much thought.:redface:

    Lol at that. And by the way I think we might not travel AT the speed of light in the future, but we will achieve whatever we wanted to do by travelling at that speed, some other way. Like travelling very very close to speed of light, and for our intended purpose, getting the same result. We are very new to the universe and have a long long way to go.
    I don't think when people ask such questions they mean to belittle our current understanding of physics. They are just curious. Although I agree many of them don't search if similar questions have been answered before or not. I asked this question here because I couldn't find a similar question asked anywhere on this site or otherwise.

    Thank you all for the replies !
  12. Aug 16, 2012 #11


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    No, those are two different concepts.

    Electromagnetic fields as you describe them correspond to excitations of the (QED) electromagnetic field - photons. So the analogy for the Higgs would be a box without real Higgs particles. This is easy, just build a box and you will not have any Higgs particle inside.

    A box without Higgs field (where particles are massless) would be similar to a box where charged objects lose their (electric) charge: You put an electron in the box and somehow it becomes uncharged and has no electric field around it. This is a completely different thing and not possible within the Standard Model.
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