• Question: How does the Higgs boson work?

    Asked by 648tmeq46 to Kai, Jose Eliel, Hannah, Hamid, Claire on 15 Mar 2019.
    • Photo: Jose Eliel Camargo Molina

      Jose Eliel Camargo Molina answered on 15 Mar 2019:


      The very rough picture is that the Higgs boson is a special type of particle, called a scalar. You can think of particles (like the Higgs boson, or electrons, or quarks) as ripples in a “sea of wibbly stuff” that permeates all the universe. Each particle has its own “sea of wibbly stuff”, which we call a field.

      The Higgs is special because unlike any other particle, the Higgs field can actually have energy even when there is nothing there, in other words, it has energy in the vacuum of the universe.

      It turns out that without that vacuum energy, the particle world is much simpler and symmetric. It is so symmetric that particles can not even have a mass because that mass would break how simple and symmetric it is.

      But once the Higgs gets that non-zero energy in the vacuum, it allows for that symmetry to be broken “a little bit”, just enough to retain some of the simplicity and beauty of the symmetric universe before but also so that particles can now have a mass.

      So the Higgs is responsible for making the laws of nature relax a little and allow for things like electrons or quarks to have a mass.

      This is pretty important because atoms are made out of quarks and electrons! so the fact that matter has mass has to do with the fact that the Higgs boson exists! Isn’t that cool?

      We thought for a long time that such a neat idea was just that, a neat idea. Until 2012 when the LHC actually found the Higgs boson.

      If you want to learn more, here is a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kixAljyfdqU