Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

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Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby lgw » Fri Nov 22, 2013 8:35 pm UTC

I find myself a bit confused by the role that the Higgs boson plays in mass.
  1. Some of the mass of ordinary matter comes from the rest mass of fundamental (indivisible? atomic?) fermions.
  2. Some comes from the "binding energy" that holds somewhat-less-fundamental particles together. I'm still baffled by what that means exactly, but I'm assured that this is most of "mass".
  3. Some comes from the mass of the gauge bosons that carry the forces involved in the previous point.
  4. Higgs bosons themselves have mass (in fact, it's fairly portly), which seems a bit recursive

Which of these sorts of mass exists because of the Higgs Boson? What percentage of all mass is the mass of the Higgs bosons themselves?
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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby Voekoevaka » Sat Nov 23, 2013 12:08 am UTC

The Higgs bosons that creates the mass itself are "virtual" Higgs bosons, like "virtual" photons that creates the electromagnetic interaction. In quantums physics, the void have a lot of particules appearing and dissappearing, but their mass can't be considered as a part of the mass of a part of the universe, as these particles are just virtual.
But, if an Higgs boson is created via real particle collisions (like in the LHC), it does really exist as a real particle, before it decays, so its mass is really existing.

On particle physics, the gravitational interaction is not taken into account, so the only kind of mass considered is the inertial mass (the resistance to a force). On Higgs theory, this resistance is proportionnal to the strenght of the link a particle has with the Higgs field (which can be considered like a soup of virtual Higgs bosons). For exeample, a photon doesn't interact with Higgs bosons, so it moves freely on this field, but a Z boson have a big interaction with Higgs bosons, so it is more difficult to make it move.
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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby lgw » Sat Nov 23, 2013 12:51 am UTC

Thanks! Since a proton is far more difficult to accelerate than the combined rest masses of the quarks, what's up with that binding energy and the virtual Higgs bosons?
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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby Voekoevaka » Sat Nov 23, 2013 7:47 am UTC

The rest of the mass that makes the proton heavy is a lot of energy. And, in quantum chromodynamics, this energy can be considered as pairs of quarks/antiquarks formed with decays of gluons, so the Higgs bosons consider this as a mass.
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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby strake » Sun Nov 24, 2013 9:10 pm UTC

But as lgw noted, the Higgs itself has mass. Now I'm curious too: how?

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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby doogly » Sun Nov 24, 2013 9:37 pm UTC

Yeah the 15 second explanation of Higgs, "the Higgs boson gives particles mass," is trouble on many fronts.
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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby Voekoevaka » Sun Nov 24, 2013 11:28 pm UTC

strake wrote:But as lgw noted, the Higgs itself has mass. Now I'm curious too: how?


Because Higgs boson interact with itself.

Imagine Higgs bosons are like a crowd where people can't move in : that's inertia.
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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby Copper Bezel » Mon Nov 25, 2013 8:52 pm UTC

I don't think I like that analogy. It sounds like the crowd is static against a reference frame that the body is accelerating relative to, and so instead of inertia, it reads as something like drag, which is totally not how inertia works.
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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby lgw » Wed Nov 27, 2013 12:32 am UTC

Voekoevaka wrote:The rest of the mass that makes the proton heavy is a lot of energy. And, in quantum chromodynamics, this energy can be considered as pairs of quarks/antiquarks formed with decays of gluons, so the Higgs bosons consider this as a mass.


Well, that's the confusing bit to me - the idea that mass is made of energy, or energy has mass. How's that again? I can understand that energy/mass conversion happens, sure, but is that what we're talking about inside a proton? Gluons don't have mass. I haven't heard that the inside of a proton is stuffed full of short-lived spontaneous quark/antiquark pairs that vastly outmass the "real" quarks - so I don't get what you're saying here.

On a related note: a spring gains mass when you compress it, due to the added potential energy. What's the mechanism for that - does the shift in molecules due to compression somehow result in more Higgs coupling? Seems odd.
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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby Dopefish » Wed Nov 27, 2013 12:45 am UTC

Susskind did an hour and 15 minute long lecture on what the higgs boson is on Stanford youtube page. I'm fairly sure the first time he even says anything directly about the higgs boson was in the final 10 minutes, which is probably a sign that it's being explained right rather than throwing analogies at it.

I think it made sense to me when I watched it back when the boson was first discovered, but I don't know enough to know that it's necessarily right, but it seemed reasonable enough and he's a decent fellow in the physics world. I don't really like throwing youtube links around as an answer, but it's tricky stuff to really get right.

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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby FancyHat » Wed Nov 27, 2013 6:03 am UTC

lgw wrote:Well, that's the confusing bit to me - the idea that mass is made of energy, or energy has mass. How's that again? I can understand that energy/mass conversion happens, sure...

I am not an expert, but I understand mass-energy equivalence as follows.

The only conversions between mass and energy happen on paper, e=mc2. There's no physical conversion of mass into energy, or energy into mass. Mass and energy are two, different ways of looking at the same thing.

Imagine quantifying water by volume and by mass. A litre of liquid water has a mass of one kilogram. And a kilogram of liquid water has a volume of one litre. We can quantify the same quantity of water in those two, different ways, without changing what the water is - it's still liquid water. Knowing the density of water - one kilogram per litre - we can convert from a volume, such as 5.3 litres, to a mass, such as 5.3 kilograms. But we haven't physically converted the water at all.

Mass-energy equivalence is a bit like that. We can quantify it as energy, in which case we might use units such as Joules or eV, and we can quantify it as mass, in which case we might use units such as kilograms or eV/c2. We can convert from one to the other by multiplying or dividing by the square of the speed of light as appropriate, but we aren't physically changing what it is.

That's not to say we can't convert mass-energy from one form to another, though. We can. Depending on the form the mass-energy takes, it might be more convenient to treat it as energy, or it might be more convenient to treat it as mass.

The notion of physically converting mass into energy, or energy into mass, seems to be one of the big misconceptions that people have.
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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Nov 27, 2013 7:00 am UTC

Isn't the dichotomy usually between matter and energy, though? That is, people talk about turning matter, not mass, into energy, and vice versa? (The fact that matter is still energy notwithstanding.)

Dopefish, I'll definitely check out the video.
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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby Carlington » Wed Nov 27, 2013 8:54 am UTC

I don't know very much about the Higgs boson, but what I do know, I can tell you. Essentially, any given particle is just a sufficient excitation of the relevant field in a given region of space. Photons are excitations of the EM field, gravitons are excitations of the gravitational field, W and Z bosons are excitations of the weak field (don't hold me to that last one) and so on. For most fields, their "ground state" - the state at which they hold the least potential energy - is zero. Fields naturally tend to their ground state, barring quantum fluctuations. For some reason, the (a) Higgs field is a field that has a non-zero ground state. Since the Higgs field has potential energy everywhere, there's potential for interaction (this is where I get shaky, anything after this, and probably the stuff before it too, shouldn't be taken as gospel) - it's that interaction, if I'm correct in my thinking, that provides mass.

As for mass-energy equivalence, it falls naturally out of our spacetime formulation. Mass warps spacetime, providing a gravitational force. Energy also warps spacetime, providing a gravitational force. For any given mass, we can find the amount of energy that would warp spacetime by the same amount by multiplying it by our conversion factor of c². (Really, I'm pretty sure it's momentum that does the warping, which is why photons, despite having no rest mass, interact gravitationally)
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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby FancyHat » Wed Nov 27, 2013 9:48 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Isn't the dichotomy usually between matter and energy, though? That is, people talk about turning matter, not mass, into energy, and vice versa? (The fact that matter is still energy notwithstanding.)

I suspect mass and matter get conflated.

The nuclear bomb example comes to mind as a common illustration of e=mc2. Yes, some of the matter stops being matter, but the m in e=mc2 doesn't stand for matter. I'm sure I've heard it said a few times that some of the mass is converted into energy when a nuclear bomb goes off. I get the impression that converting matter into other forms of energy gets conflated with mass-energy equivalence, with the nuclear bomb illustration being one such example of how that conflation can happen.
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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby Schrollini » Wed Nov 27, 2013 12:27 pm UTC

Carlington wrote:I don't know very much about the Higgs boson, but what I do know, I can tell you. Essentially, any given particle is just a sufficient excitation of the relevant field in a given region of space. Photons are excitations of the EM field, gravitons are excitations of the gravitational field, W and Z bosons are excitations of the weak field (don't hold me to that last one) and so on.

The photon, W and Z are all excitations of the electro-weak field. You'll notice that the symmetry between them is broken: one is massless while the other three have mass. As Sean Carroll explains, this is precisely due to the Higgs mechanism.

Carlington wrote:(Really, I'm pretty sure it's momentum that does the warping, which is why photons, despite having no rest mass, interact gravitationally)

It's the full relativistic energy, E2 = p2c2 + m2c4. Anything that has momentum or rest mass (or both) has energy.

I cringe a little whenever someone quotes E = mc2. It's wrong! Or at least, not generally right.
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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby FancyHat » Wed Nov 27, 2013 1:53 pm UTC

Schrollini wrote:It's the full relativistic energy, E2 = p2c2 + m2c4. Anything that has momentum or rest mass (or both) has energy.

I cringe a little whenever someone quotes E = mc2. It's wrong! Or at least, not generally right.

So, when someone asks you about the mass of a compressed spring, and they ask you if the extra mass is momentum or rest mass, what do you tell them?

Dopefish wrote:Susskind did an hour and 15 minute long lecture on what the higgs boson is on Stanford youtube page.

Thanks for that link, it's a great video! :D
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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby davidstarlingm » Wed Nov 27, 2013 3:00 pm UTC

Matter is to be distinguished from antimatter, both of which have positive mass (at least, as far as we know). The mass-energy equivalence of a positron and the mass-energy equivalence of an electron work just the same way, though one is matter and the other is antimatter.

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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby Schrollini » Wed Nov 27, 2013 3:59 pm UTC

FancyHat wrote:
Schrollini wrote:It's the full relativistic energy, E2 = p2c2 + m2c4. Anything that has momentum or rest mass (or both) has energy.

I cringe a little whenever someone quotes E = mc2. It's wrong! Or at least, not generally right.

So, when someone asks you about the mass of a compressed spring, and they ask you if the extra mass is momentum or rest mass, what do you tell them?

It's rest mass, of course. After all, the rest mass is defined as the Lorentz invariant of the energy-momentum four-vector.

My complaint is with the habitual dropping of the momentum term from the relativistic energy equation. This creates confusion about the energy of photons and leads to abominations like "relativistic mass". Sure, E = mc2 when p = 0, but that's like saying the equation of a circle is r2 = x2 when y = 0. It's leaving out some rather important information.
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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby lgw » Wed Nov 27, 2013 9:36 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Isn't the dichotomy usually between matter and energy, though? That is, people talk about turning matter, not mass, into energy, and vice versa? (The fact that matter is still energy notwithstanding.)

Dopefish, I'll definitely check out the video.


Heh, thanks for provoking a blinding flash of the obvious Copper! Now excuse me while I stumble away dazzled.

So, what I really wanted to ask then is: does energy couple with the Higgs field to gain mass, or is that just a matter thing?

For matter, the notion is fairly straightforward. Particles emitting force-communicating virtual particles is one of my favorite things.

For energy, I find it baffling, perhaps because it's such a nebulous catch-all term. How the heck could potential energy couple to anything? How does a spring "know" to interact more strongly with the Higgs field when compressed - or worse, a stretched rubber band, where the potential energy depends on the nearby temperature (energy of other molecules at some distance).
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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby doogly » Wed Nov 27, 2013 9:53 pm UTC

lgw wrote:I haven't heard that the inside of a proton is stuffed full of short-lived spontaneous quark/antiquark pairs that vastly outmass the "real" quarks - so I don't get what you're saying here.

That is in fact the case.

I mean, mostly. Edging away from thinking about "virtual particles" and towards quantum field theory is for the best, but the virtual particle sea is a better idea than just thinking of three quarks buzzing around.
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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby lgw » Wed Nov 27, 2013 10:23 pm UTC

doogly wrote:
lgw wrote:I haven't heard that the inside of a proton is stuffed full of short-lived spontaneous quark/antiquark pairs that vastly outmass the "real" quarks - so I don't get what you're saying here.

That is in fact the case.

I mean, mostly. Edging away from thinking about "virtual particles" and towards quantum field theory is for the best, but the virtual particle sea is a better idea than just thinking of three quarks buzzing around.


You'll have as much luck convincing me that virtual particles aren't cool as you will convincing the Doctor that fezzes aren't cool. :roll: But that aside - is a proton really stuffed with short-lived quark-antiquark pairs (edit: ahh, are these the same as virtual mesons?) which annihilate and produce - what, gluons? - in the same way a photon in a vacuum occasionally slows down to interact with spontaneous electron-positron pairs?

Heck, for that matter :P, do those spontaneous electron-positron pairs contribute to the mass of the universe?
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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby FancyHat » Thu Nov 28, 2013 4:23 am UTC

Schrollini wrote:It's rest mass, of course. After all, the rest mass is defined as the Lorentz invariant of the energy-momentum four-vector.

What if I've got a mirror box containing a huge amount of light? If the box itself, without the light, has a mass of 1 kg, and the total energy of the light is c2 kg, the total mass is 2 kg. I would have thought that when treating the box with light as a single thing, the internals of which we aren't interested in, we'd treat it all as 2 kg of mass, as rest mass, but that when taking an interest in the light, we'd probably start treating the 1 kg of light as c2 kg of energy, or whatever, as that would then be more convenient.

My complaint is with the habitual dropping of the momentum term from the relativistic energy equation. This creates confusion about the energy of photons and leads to abominations like "relativistic mass". Sure, E = mc2 when p = 0, but that's like saying the equation of a circle is r2 = x2 when y = 0. It's leaving out some rather important information.

I thought it was more of a old-school thing, rather than actually missing stuff out.

Suppose I've got a spring with two, equal masses on the ends. Initially, the spring is held in a compressed state, and stores a huge amount of energy, c2 kg. Each attached mass is 1 kg. The spring itself is so light it's mass is negligible. So, in total, there's 3 kg of rest mass. The spring is released, and the masses start accelerating away. At some point, when the masses are moving at their fastest before stretching the spring and slowing down, each mass has 1 kg of rest mass and c2/2 kg of kinetic energy. What is the total mass of the system as a whole? I would have said 3 kg. Is the extra kilogram rest mass?

I think I do understand that it's useful to distinguish between rest mass and other mass-energy, and that being disciplined about it is a good idea, but I'm not sure that being dogmatic about it is always quite so helpful.

Edited to add the following:-

lgw wrote:For energy, I find it baffling, perhaps because it's such a nebulous catch-all term. How the heck could potential energy couple to anything? How does a spring "know" to interact more strongly with the Higgs field when compressed - or worse, a stretched rubber band, where the potential energy depends on the nearby temperature (energy of other molecules at some distance).

Are you thinking that energy gets corresponding mass because of the Higgs field, that mass-energy equivalence is due to the Higgs field? That's what it sounds like, but that's just wrong. If you weighed a 1 kg mirror box containing c2 kg of energy in the form of light, you'd find it would have a total mass of 2 kg, without any of the photons interacting with the Higgs field at all.
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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby thoughtfully » Thu Nov 28, 2013 4:31 am UTC

lgw wrote:Heck, for that matter :P, do those spontaneous electron-positron pairs contribute to the mass of the universe?

In some (cosmological constant) Dark Energy models, these are the Dark Energy (the "vacuum state"). Now, the Standard Model fails badly at predicting the value of this cosmological constant, by more than 100 orders of magnitude (by the usual method), which some have termed the "vacuum catastrophe" after the "ultraviolet catastrophe", whose resolution was found in the discovery of Quantum Mechanics. Supersymmetric models are quite a bit less wrong, but these have a prediction of zero, which must be suitably twerked by some kind of symmetry breaking, which is a sort of can kicking exercize.

The trouble with virtual quarks and gluons within hadrons is that what you see depends on the energy of the probe. This makes events in hadron colliders much, much harder to analyze. The next generation of particle accelerators in various stages of planning are all lepton colliders, to my knowledge. The niftiest idea is a muon collider, but the next one likely to be built is a electron-positron linear collider.

You can get a *AHEM* flavor of the wacky tricks QCD is up to here.
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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby eternauta3k » Fri Nov 29, 2013 10:37 pm UTC

Supose I write the Klein-Gordon equation for two particles with opposite electric charge. How do I get out that the mass of the composite system differs from the sum of the two particle masses? Is it necessary to quantize the EM field?
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Re: Can someone explain more about the Higgs Boson and mass?

Postby K^2 » Mon Dec 09, 2013 6:47 am UTC

Voekoevaka wrote:The rest of the mass that makes the proton heavy is a lot of energy. And, in quantum chromodynamics, this energy can be considered as pairs of quarks/antiquarks formed with decays of gluons, so the Higgs bosons consider this as a mass.

This is not entirely correct. Without Higgs mechanism, bare quarks are, indeed, massless, but most of the hadron mass is due to dynamic chiral symmetry breaking. So you can start with massless quarks, and once you add all of the interactions, you'll end up with an almost identical mass for the hadron. Mass of protons and neutrons would change by something like 1% if Higgs field wasn't involved.

Most of the mass, does, in fact, come from the fluctuations in the vacuum. Of which about 90% are from the sea, and the rest are dressing on valence quarks. But this has nothing to do with Higgs mechanism. You get these masses even if quark did not interact with the Higgs field.

You really shouldn't think of Higgs as a mass-causing particle. We'd have mass with or without the Higgs field. Now, the W and Z bosons wouldn't have mass, so the universe would be a rather different place, but the hadrons, at least, would be pretty much the same.


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