What is a Higgs Particle?
Asked by: Jon Lorello
The Higgs particle is as yet a hypothetical particle invoked to explain why the carriers of
the electroweak force (the W and Z bosons) have mass. Quantum electrodynamics requires the
photon to have zero mass (which is good because indeed it does), but early attempts to
develop and electroweak theory also required the bosons to be massless, (which is bad
because then they would be as abundant as the photon in the universe, which indeed they are
not). Peter Higgs and two Belgian researchers (who worked independently of Higgs) come
across the same idea for settling the puzzle in 1964. If there is an otherwise
undetectable field filling the universe (now called the Higgs field), it could have
associated with it a previously unknown kind of boson, the Higgs particle, which has mass.
This would allow any photon-like particle to become massive by swallowing up a Higgs boson.
It is possible, but not proven, that all-massive particles get their mass this way.
Answered by: Dan Summons, Physics Undergrad Student, UOS, Souhampton
To answer this, think about this question: Why do particles have mass? Our world would be a
much simpler place if particles didn't have mass.
All interactions/forces in nature (electromagnetism, weak, strong and gravity) are
transmitted by particles called gauge bosons. For example electromagnetism is 'carried' by
photons. This idea was carried on to explain mass.
In 1966 Peter Higgs (University of Edinburgh) proposed that the universe was full of a
field called a HIGGS FIELD. Disturbances in this field as particles move through it cause
objects to have mass. From a a quantum point of view, we can only stir up the field in
discrete units. The smallest possible disturbance is due to a HIGGS PARTICLE, or more
precisely, a Higgs Boson. The field consists of countless Higgs Bosons that act like a kind
of cosmic molasses that fills all of space. As objects move through space they have to
'wade' through these Higgs particles that 'cling' to them, causing a drag that shows up as
To sum up, Higgs Particles are believed to be responsible for mass of objects in the
Answered by: Simon Hooks, Physics A-Level Student, Gosport, England
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