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17 March 2013


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james doleman

It's the focal point of the Higgs Field which is responsible fort the properties of mass.


So basically the glue that holds things together?

Babak Makkinejad

In Physics there is a concept called mass – defined as the quantity of matter in an object.

Isaac Newton posited that if a force is exerted on an object, it gets accelerated and the constant of proportionality between the exerted force and the resulting acceleration is equal to the mass of that object; f = m X a.

Further developments revealed that ordinary day-to-day objects themselves are mad of more elementary parts – atoms. Atoms, in turn, were revealed to be constituted of protons, neutrons, electrons, mesons and other “elementary particles”. (Protons, neutrons, and mesons themselves are now thought to be made of yet more elementary “things” – quarks and their anti-particles.)

The effort to describe the observed empirical interactions among these elementary particles – such as their life-times, the way they scatter off one another when colliding, etc. - led to the construction of the Standard Model of the Particle Physics (over almost 60 years).

The Standard Model of Particle Physics, however, contains 17 parameters that are freely adjustable; they cannot be derived from a more fundamental theory. Among these 18 are the masses of elementary particles – 9 parameters. The Higgs Mechanism is a mathematical construct within the Standard Model which attributes the mass of elementary particles to their interactions with a hypothetical particle. This particle was later dubbed “Higgs” to honor professor Higgs’ ideas.

The chief attraction of the Higgs Mechanism is that reduces the number of free parameters of the Standard Model by 9, from 17 to 9. But the Higgs Mechanism means that the Higgs particle must exist – which is the new result from CERN proclaims. As to the origin of the Higgs mass itself – that remains still an adjustable parameter.




the boson is the quantization of the Higgs Field which gives particles their mass. Think of the Higgs field as a field of snow. Particles get dragged by it and this is what gives them mass. Some like birds fly thru the snowfield w/o getting dragged. For example the photon, the quantization particle of the electromagnetic field. Some were snow skis and have a minimal drag and thus have a light mass such as the electron. Some particles are heavy footed using snow shoes and experience a lot of drag- witness the heavy proton. this analogy is based on a NYT article.


this is about the best popular graphic of it.

The Twisted Genius

One thing it is not is "The God Particle." In a recent NPR interview, the physicist who coined that phrase said the term was just a bad joke.


I also read that some physicists were disappointed that the experiments merely demonstrated that the theories were correct and nothing more. Unexpected results would offer more mysteries to solve.

William R. Cumming

Thanks James!


Or you could just point out that:
What we call a widely and currently acceptable fudge factor.


Actually for a long time there were two different concepts of mass. 1) gravitational mass. those are the numbers entered into Newton's law of universal gravitation. 2) Inertial mass or the resistance to acceleration that shows up in Newton's second law of motion, F=mxa. Eperiments showed them to be the same to the limits of the measuring instruments. It was called the Equivalence Principle. Einstein's general relativity showed why they had to be the same. Think elevators- u feel heavier going up and lighter coming down?


This is a cool article:


João Carlos

Well, I too not understand what the Higgs particle is, but I have the sensation we need find it for make possible that warp drives that we see at Star Trek. The Alcubierre Drive is aparently based at the Higgs model.

I defend we attack the klingons before they attack us....


Cern's own site, which is excellent, has a basic page on both the standard model (http://home.web.cern.ch/about/physics/standard-model) and the Higgs Boson (http://home.web.cern.ch/about/physics/search-higgs-boson). I am not sure a deeper understanding is really available without serious mathematical literacy and lots of time.

Dave Lewis

The Higgs-Boson theory is a necessary corollary to the empty universe, or, perhaps more aptly, unreal space (now that space-time is an accepted perspective) assumption. The so-called "God particle" turns nothing (mass-less stuff) into something (an item of mass), without it the universe would be (pun intended) void.

I think theoretical physics has followed the Kantian-Einsteinian transcendental idealism into absurdity in recent decades (read David Bohm if you want further elucidation) but the above should stand as working definition within the context of that world view.

Bababk Makkinejad

Yes, I agree.

The mathematical structureof the Yang-Mills Throey that posits massless fermions is taken to be the Truth about the Universe and further elaborations are conocted to account for the fact that fermions have mass.

To wit, the Big Bang Cosmology with the Inflation (matter-energy creation out of Contingency - Ex Nihilo) is incorporated into the Higgs Mechanism and yet another contingency is introduced - the Higgs Field - to account for the observed properties of matter.

Absurdities abound: Age of Universe is measured to be 13 billion years while stars are discovered with the same age.

I think String Theory is the ultimate expression of the Scientific program to which you allude - all of physics is to be deduced from pure mathematics. That is, the logical language of mathematics is elevated to to that of Empirical Truth.

Dave Lewis

Ah string theory, the view that the architects of the universe are playing cat's cradle. One can't complain about their endeavor, their hands are tied.

Readings from Einstein's later period suggest he was well aware of the problems he had engendered.


Great arguments. but until we understand what gravity is everything falls apart.

Dave Lewis

Most apt, without gravity everything does indeed fall apart. It's a good thing the universe doesn't depend on our understanding thereof to do what it does.

Perhaps the apocryphal woman who questioned Lord Russell was correct, it's turtles all the way down.

Turtles being no more silly than strings.


Dave, maybe the turtle knows something we don't know...lol

Perhaps gravity is the dark matter...


No, but Dark Energy is anti-gravitational...


Quantum Mechanics and Particle Physics is why I switched my major from Physics to Electrical Engineering. (http://doubleslitexperiment.com) I prefer working instruments that are more predictable.



The Large Hadron Rap

Enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j50ZssEojtM


All the above discussions are very learned and quite probably totally correct. However, I suspect they are, almost incomprehensible to most people who have limited knopwledge of maths and physics. I am reminded of the mediaeval church and feudal peasantry: the illiterate laity have to accept unquestioning the esoteric teachings uttered in incomprehensible Latin by the great theologians who discuss how many angels may dance on the head of a pin. And likewise, we whose understanding of maths stopped perhaps at quadratic equations, Pythagoras' theorem, and how to calculate a cube root, (if we got that far) can only listen to and read these discussions of string theory and Yang Mills, and quarks, spin and charm, with awe and wonderment. This is not a criticism of the scientists amd mathematicians who can converse easily in their special languages; it is merely a comment on how deparmentalised knowledge has become, and how vast science has become.

Bababk Makkinejad

This is a valid criticism.

I think it is possible to simplify the mathematical language - but you need to hire a large number of people to do that.

It is like engineering - you can take a system and ask yourself how can I simplify it.

And just like in engineering where some systems are "over-engineered", a lot of theoretical physics is also over-engineered; no doubt. That is probaly one reason that progress have been so little given the amount of effort spent over the last 60 years.

But beware that people who cannot do Algebra II will always remain in state of ignorance - nothing could be done for them.


Thanks, Babak. I emphasise I was not criticising anyone (note my last sentence above). The problem is that there is so much to learn and master in any branch of science that quite early in one's education, that person has to abandon those subjects that are not directly relevant to the particular area of science he/she has chosen to follow. I am a geologist. To become well quyalified in that area of science, I had to understand, for example, the periodic table for mineralogy and petrology, the basics of genetics evolutionary theory and general biology for pal;aeontology, the mechanics of materials under strain and stress for strucural geology, an amount of climatology and meteorolgy for sedimentology and geomorphology - where in that crowded course could I acquire a deeper understanding of say, relativity, quantum mechanics and the Higgs Boson and of the mathematics relevant to those areas of physics? The same could be said, I am sure, of any scientist: whether a botanist or medical scientist or organic chemist, the intricacies of theoretical physics would be largely a closed book. As for non scintists - historians or economists or sociologists - well.....Anyway, we ought to be acquiring a certain understanding of all areas of science from our education, but how we the educational system (at least in my country, the UK) can do that is frankly beyond me.

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