Science Questions

Is the Higgs Field constant?

Sat, 14th Jul 2012

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Xaver Kober asked:

Dear Naked Scientist,


I only last week stumbled upon your brilliant program. While I usually have basic answers to most questions, every episode so far has expanded my knowledge bit interesting details. With the Higgs-Boson however it's different.


Is the Higgs-Field a uniform field? As in are there loci where the field is distorted and mass anomalies might appear? It seems as matter is not uniformly distributed throughout the universe, the distribution of Higgs-Bosons should be clustered as well, which would point towards a non-uniform field?


Regards from Germany

Xaver Kober


Dominic -   So if we step back for a moment to what the Higgs actually is.  I find this rather interesting because the problem which has been facing particle physicists for the last 20 or 30 years is looking at the zoo of these strange particles we have in the universe Ė the quarks that make up protons and neutrons; the electrons, the photons, the neutrinos, etc.  And wondering whether these are just a random set of particles we have in the universe or whether there's some pattern to their properties.  And one problem has been explaining why some of these particles, like quarks, have mass and others, like photons and neutrinos, donít have mass.

What Peter Higgs did in the 1960s was to show that although these particles donít form any pattern, just with the ones that we have seen, if we have one more particle - which is the Higgs Boson - then you got a very nice pattern which could explain why some of these particles have mass and others donít.  Itís all to do with whether they interact with the Higgs Boson which creates this Higgs field and mass is given to a particle by its interaction with that Higgs field.  Now in terms of the properties of that Higgs field, I think weíre going to learn more about that from the LHC in the next few years as they study this particle they seem now to have discovered.  I think the general thinking is that the Higgs field is constant throughout the whole universe, it would be created by Higgs Bosons popping out of the vacuum.  But I'm sure we will learn more about it in the next few years.


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Nice questions :)

What you seem to ask is if there is a reason for mass to be 'clustered' as it is?

There has to be a reason as we have it. If mass, or matter, is 'energy', then why does it clump together and becomes the matter we touch? Is the Higgs field(s?) responsible for this?

What the Higgs field explains is 'inertia/gravity' which then gets expressed as our 'mass' as i understands it, but it has nothing to say, as far as I know, about 'why' matter exist.

Assuming that the Higgs field exist, and that it creates 'gravity/inertia' then what about uniform motion? Why is there a gravity, relating to the 'mass' existing in a uniformly moving object? And if it has to do with 'relative motion' then there has to be a state that can be defined as globally 'unmoving' too as it seems to me?

The Higgs field is a very interesting idea, but I still find it hard to relate to relativity. yor_on, Sun, 15th Jul 2012

The Higgs field is related to temperature and symmetries. Symmetries is one of Einsteins major contributions to modern physics as I remember. The Higgs field then becomes a expression of a lower temperature, as what we have today in our universe as compared to what there was in the beginning (the Big Bang). It's about 'phase transitions' as when a ice crystal loses its coherency and becomes water, and the 'symmetry' you find it to have. As I understands it we had a very high symmetry in the first instant of the BB but as it cools down you get 'broken symmetries'. That way, if assuming a 'static universe' ignoring the arrow of time, the Higgs field could be postulated to 'exist' at all times, although only interacting with matter in a sufficiently cooled down universe.

Eh, maybe :)

But I still don't get it to fit uniform motion.

Take a look here for how symmetries is defined.

What does such a thinking make matter? yor_on, Sun, 15th Jul 2012

I'm the author of the question and I have done some research consulting some physics PhD buddies.

My original questions are in part poorly asked. I was under the assumption, that the Higgs-Boson creates the Higgs field. Therefore my thinking was as follows:
Within space, the matter isn't equally distributed as there are planets (= cluster of matter) surrounded by empty space. As Higgs-Bosons are part of matter (another false assuption) they would be unequally distributed as well so I was puzzled how something unequally distributed could create an uniform field.

What I have understood from the ramblings of my physicist buddies:
The standard model includes the Higgs-Field as needed in order to make the rest work. Under extreme circumstances, the Higgs-Field can be excited to give rise to a Higgs-Boson. This Higgs-Boson is unstable and decays into energized particles which were detected at CERN.

The Higgs-Field is supposed to be uniform throughout the universe. Why? The answer I got amounted - at least to my understanding - to "Else the ends of our equations don't match".

This basically leaves the following questions:
a) What causes the Higgs-field? Magnetic fields are caused by magnets, gravitational fields are caused by mass. All fields I can think of have a basis in matter.
b) Can the Higgs-field be distorted? This could be either artificially through some neat device or naturally.
c) If there are natural distortions in space (caused by some astronomical circumstance), could these distortions result in matter having more mass (and therefore more gravitational pull) that we would expect?

I hope that clarifies some points. Thrombocyte, Tue, 17th Jul 2012

The Higgs field is indeed needed for the Standard model although not necessarily necessary :)

It rounds it up sort of, if that makes any sense? Without a 'field' the standard model still works but? Then there will be something else needed. Check out Higgs Physics.  for a very nice summary of why it is expected.

You and me both are wondering there :) yor_on, Tue, 17th Jul 2012

As for "All fields I can think of have a basis in matter." you are perfectly correct. Although you may assume radiation, or 'energy' to be able to interact with itself, in practice I do not know of any experiments showing us that? But a 'field' can then, possibly, be seen as something not necessarily interacting in any perceivable mode for us. We measure those interactions by deducing them from the particle experiment done in accelerators. They seem to be 'there' and?

So that sort of 'fields' may permeate the universe, and maybe be what creates both inertia/gravity and 'matter', maybe? But then you have the way relativity make it all observer dependent, including both distance and 'time' when comparing where you are to some other 'frame of reference'. That is a added complication to any theory of a 'all permeating' field at least as I think. yor_on, Tue, 17th Jul 2012

Does this mean there is no higgs field between galaxies? If so doesn't that mean there is no dark energy, just a lack of dark matter? keith, Sun, 11th May 2014


Just as sound passes through water causing peaks and valleys (, matter passes through the Higgs Field. The effects this passing naturally is experienced differently at the sub-atomic, atomic, molecular, and gross mass of the object, but all represent a general resistance to the passing. Photons experience the least resistance, but IMO are slowed to, what we consider the speed of light dring this encounter - making it impossible to gauge what the photos speed is between encounters. I believe the Higgs Field experiences a deformity in the presence of mass - the larger the mass the more concentrated the field - thus producing more drag, which we experience as gravity. Steve Schaefer, Sat, 17th Sep 2016

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