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The Universe is Absurd: it's called the Higgs Boson

Updated on April 27, 2015

What is the Higgs Boson, in a nutshell?

The Higgs Boson is a particle that has effectively proven a vastly more important theory, the Higgs field. Both of these theories were postulated in the 1960s by theoretical physicist Peter Higgs. These theories have since been proven by the efforts of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland.

The only reason the Higgs Boson has gained so much popularity is because it is the only way theorized to analyze the postulated Higgs field. The Higgs field exists in all of spacetime, and gives mass to neutrinos, quarks, leptons, W and Z particles. The Higgs field does not give mass to gluons, photons and gravitons, they are massless particles.

The Higgs field can be thought of as a frictional immersive fluid, through which particles are attempting to move. Particles which interact with the Higgs field experience a tugging phenomenon that prevents them from moving at a universal limit, the speed of light. This interaction imparts the quality of momentum, which we use to infer mass. Momentum means these particles require energy to accelerate them, which is our main basis in establishing the illusion of mass and matter.

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Who discovered the Higgs, and how do they know it exists?

The Higgs Boson was theorized to occupy one of few very specific energy frequencies occurring after the annihilation of highly accelerated photons. This previously theoretical particle was the last unknown bastion of the complete Standard Model of the Universe. The existence of the Higgs Boson was proven by the LHC at CERN over the course of many years, at an energy level it was previously theorized to occupy.

Though critics will highlight physicists' disdain for claiming absolute proof, this result has been deemed statistically sound at a level of 5σ, which is for all purposes indistinguishable from absolute certainty. The resulting consequence is the adoption of the Higgs field theory, which was the primary reason physicists knew to start looking for the elusive boson.

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So the Higgs field gives particles mass, what is mass/matter?

We misunderstand mass as an inherent quality of reality, when really it isn't. Mass and matter are just manifestations of interactions between energy fields and quantum fundamental particles. These particles are not really particles in the usual sense, they are only semi-tangible realizations of excitation levels of energy fields. The Higgs field is just one contributor to this illusion, giving what we call mass to quarks, electrons, and other fundamental particles.

Basically what I'm telling you is that there is no such thing as solid matter in the conventional sense. Objects look solid only because light, or electromagnetic radiation, "bounces" off of them via interactions of different energy fields. In reality, the light ray that "bounces" off is not even the same light ray that hits an object. It is only the reaction of those energy levels in the electron clouds of the atoms of the object that became excited, manifested as yet another energy wave.

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I guess that makes sense, but why do objects feel solid?

Objects only feel solid because of interactions between different collections of energy. The only reason your feet don't fall through the floor is because the electrons in the atoms of your feet are repelling the electrons in the atoms in the floor, and vice versa, via exclusion forces. The respective electron clouds in your feet and the floor cannot occupy the same space unless one of them exists in a higher energy state. This takes a lot of energy, thus there is a repelling force. What this means is that no things are really "bumping into each other," they are only interacting in a manner analogous to when magnets repel each other, albeit on a different scale and by a different mechanism.

Mass can be be thought of primarily as a collection of energy and momentum. If an object has a lot of momentum, it feels heavy. This is true even if the object is stationary, and even if the majority of its total energy comes from nuclear binding energy, which the Higgs field doesn't even really contribute to.

I understand that this all must come as quite a shock. These ideas are very counter-intuitive because we, as a species, evolved without the senses that would allow us to analyze these elusive properties without advanced machinery. Also, our prehistoric survival never hinged upon our ability to grasp these concepts. Nevertheless, this is the way stuff works.

Misconception Correction #1: stop calling it the "god particle"

Leon Lenderman, who is responsible for coining the term, wanted to call it the "goddamn particle," because of how frustratingly elusive it is. Unfortunately, his publishers wouldn't allow him to use that language, and he was forced to settle for this failed comical implication.

The truth of the matter is, the Higgs Boson has no connection with god whatsoever. if we found a particle that suggested the existence of another force field, like gravity, we might as well rename the graviton the "jesus particle." While we're at it, we could name the electron the "holy ghost," or something like that. These terms do little to communicate the underlying phenomenon for which they are supposed to illustrate.

The least flimsy reason people call the Higgs the "God Particle" is because it evidences the field that gives particles mass. This is supposedly analogous to the ancient mythological teaching that a deity called "God" created a lot of things in 7 days. If anything, the Higgs should be seen not as evidence of a god, but as the replacement to a temporary placeholder in humanity's incomplete understanding of reality. We now know where matter came from, and have no more use for unsubstantiated speculation.

Misconception Correction #2: the boson doesn't create mass

Many people are confused by the thought of a particle imparting other particles with a fundamental characteristic such as mass. After all, what would this mechanism look like? The truth is, the Higgs Boson is only a by-product manifestation of the actual property at work, the Higgs field. The Higgs field is responsible for imparting particles with the quality of mass.

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Misconception Correction #3: mass comes from other sources

One of the reasons the Higgs gained so much popular traction is the misinterpretation that it is responsible for all mass. The truth is, the Higgs field only accounts for about 1% of mass in a proton. The rest of this perceived mass derives from the binding energy of fundamental particles, which is represented as mass. What we typically call mass actually makes up an inconceivably small portion of the total energy contained in an atom.

Please Note: this article is not an attack on anyone's freedom of thought. I openly and honestly encourage everyone reading this to analyze and criticize everything that I say. You have the right to believe what you believe. This is, in no way, an attempt to rob that from you. Likewise, I expect a similar level of respect when it comes to my belief system. Please keep this in mind before you comment, but please do share your thoughts in an intelligent manner. If you find that I have made a technical or conceptual error, please let me know and I will amend this article immediately to more accurately portray the theories described herein. Thanks.

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    • Buildreps profile image

      Buildreps 2 years ago from Europe

      Great article, Luke. You explained it very well in pleasant readable language. Voted up!

    • Luke M Simmons profile image
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      Luke M. Simmons 2 years ago from Encinitas, California

      seconded

    • Taranwanderer profile image

      Taranwanderer 2 years ago

      Great hub on the Higgs field and particle physics. As for Susan Guinn, do you have any sources for this unsubstantiated version of the origins of the universe?

      https://hubpages.com/education/The-Higgs-Boson-Unc...

    • Luke M Simmons profile image
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      Luke M. Simmons 3 years ago from Encinitas, California

      Hahaha, love it. If you're confused about anything specifically I would be happy to attempt to clear it up. If you just can't wrap your head around the idea that mass is an imparted property... yeah, you're not alone. If you keep at it though, it will start to click.

    • jgshorebird profile image

      Jack Shorebird 3 years ago from Southeastern U.S.

      I'm still confused, but that is normal. Interesting. I need a drink now.

    • Luke M Simmons profile image
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      Luke M. Simmons 3 years ago from Encinitas, California

      @ann: the overwhelming feeling will not go away. There is so much astonishing stuff out there just waiting to be known. My solution has been to accept and embrace these feelings and do my best to learn as much as I can about the way things really work. Thank you for taking the time to grow your understanding. An open mind is the only way to let the knowledge in.

      @susan: thank you for your opinion.

    • Susan Guinn profile image

      Susan Guinn 3 years ago from Florida

      Ok wow, ancient Mythological teaching that a deity called "God" created a lot of things in (6) days?? No, God did not claim to create in(6) days, he REBUILT or RENEWED, not created. After he destroyed the prehistoric earth, the earths axis was inclined 23 1/3 degrees from perpendicular. The inclined axis caused weather, seasons etc. (previously there were no seasons, because the prehistoric was created with its polar axis perpendicular to its orbital plane,so there were no seasons because of this.) After the the catastrophic destruction, God then rebuilt the adamic age. Light was appointed,(not created) to penetrate the cloud barrier.The mist cloud of this destroyed world, lay upon the surface of the deep. Light rays from the sun pulled the mist up to what is now called the cloud layer heights. This left clear space between the water surface to separate the water in the clouds above clear space firmament.The land was then brought up to form continents, islands and other land forms for the renewing of the earth. Oceans seas, lakes and rivers appeared. The sun,moon & stars were not created on the 4th day, the sun was arranged and aligned to rule the day, The moon and stars were appointed & arranged to rule the night. On the 5th day fish, aquatics life were created. The 6th day land creatures, then human life. And lastly, on the 7th day he rested from all rebuilding.

      Curosity has brought about many fine things & beneficial accomplishments, but sometimes it has done the opposite.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      This is a valiant attempt to inform people like me who are baffled by science. I do understand more than I did before reading this, though I still feel overwhelmed; my brain hurts!

      Thanks for the clarity and the helpful diagrams.

      Ann

    • Luke M Simmons profile image
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      Luke M. Simmons 3 years ago from Encinitas, California

      @nell: thank you very much. Yes, the Dark Matter problem is something I am deeply interested in. Either there is an overwhelmingly large portion of the mass (or energy) in our Universe that we are unable to interact with, or our Standard Model is in need of a fundamental overhaul. Either way, I'm on the edge of my seat. I have been planning on a Dark Matter article to join this series. It will be published shortly in an effort to familiarize people on the subject in preparation for the discovery of greater truths about our Universe.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Hi, I love physics, its so fascinating! its amazing that so many people don't get involved in it, the fact that Universe is such a complex place and or should I say Space makes me want to know more. Dark matter is what I am waiting for, I want to know what that is! they say 98 percent of our Universe is unknown because of dark matter, great read, and lovely to see a subject I love, nell

    • Luke M Simmons profile image
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      Luke M. Simmons 3 years ago from Encinitas, California

      @Fire8storm: the whole of particle physics is truly mind warping. The Higgs field in particular is one of those notions where just when you give up trying to comprehend it, staring off into nothing... bang, it suddenly falls into place. The first time I felt comfortable with the idea of mass being a bestowed property, my understanding lasted for a solid 15 seconds. Then it was gone. If you keep pushing your mind to think about things you're not really designed to understand, you'll eventually be able to retain these type of ideas. Thanks for taking the time and being willing to accept new principles.

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      Fire8storm 3 years ago

      Now this is a topic I have never fully got my head around. Really good article, clear and concise and I have definitely learnt from it, thank you for sharing!

    • Luke M Simmons profile image
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      Luke M. Simmons 3 years ago from Encinitas, California

      @aesta1: that's the idea, to give people a little taste. There are plenty of articles that delve deep down this rabbit hole. I just wanted to give the everyday reader a slight push in that direction. Thanks for reading!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I have heard this before but I have not really read on it. Now, that gives me a more solid base for some of the energy reads I've had. Thank you.

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