The Higgs Boson ExplainedBy James Dwight Hartsell, 10/11/12, tweaked 12/13/14
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This is how I understand the Higgs boson, proposed as a theory in 1964, observed in 2012, and how it imparts mass to matter. It was the missing piece of the Standard Model of particle physics. Nowhere have I seen the full story as presented here, especially whether particles acquired mass one time or as a continuing process, and what part of their mass truly came from the Higgs field. Important detail has been left out, but this is the general idea.
It is the Higgs field that is of the most interest. You've heard of a magnetic field. The Higgs field fills the entire universe. Without the Higgs field, all atomic particles would move at the speed of light. No chance of forming atoms. There would be no stars, Earth, or you. The Higgs boson is a manifestation of the Higgs field. It materializes out of the energy of the Higgs field.
A key fact is that the Higgs boson is in the class of particles that include the photon (a packet of energy, or a "particle of light"). You can think of bosons as carriers of energy, or force-carrying particles. In an atom, an electron that absorbs a photon gains energy and jumps to a higher orbit. When it drops back to a lower orbit, it emits a photon.
What makes a Higgs field different from other quantum fields is that its lowest energy state is a non-zero value. The Big Bang is thought to have been triggered by the decay of a Higgs field (Inflation Theory). Thus the universe started out as a Higgs field. This would explain why the expansion of the universe is accelerating, why the universe is precisely flat (all matter plus all gravity equals zero), and why the cosmic background radiation (the "first light" of the universe stretched into microwaves) is so uniform. When the universe cooled enough, massless atomic particles "crystallized" out of pure energy. To different degrees, they interacted with the Higgs field, absorbed a Higgs boson, and took on mass/energy. In other words, massless particles acquired potential energy and, by the mass-energy relation E=mc2, mass. This in turn slowed down the particles so they could interact and form atoms. See my web page jdhartsell.com/time.html, "Why There Is Time". The Higgs boson has not existed since the early stages of the Big Bang because there have been no interactions since. Physicists had to knock Higgs bosons out via extreme proton-proton collisions at the Large Hadron Collider to prove it (and the Higgs field) exists.
Protons and neutrons of the atomic nucleus are made up of three quarks. Now here's a big surprise. The mass of quarks imparted by the Higgs boson accounts for less than 2% of the mass of the proton, and the mass of all ordinary matter. At this point a one-pound rock would only weigh a quarter of an ounce. The other 98%, very simply stated, is from interactions and kinetic (relativistic) energy of the quarks moving at near light-speed inside the proton. Higgs gave matter a start, and Einstein's relativity does the rest. See my calculations at "Why A Rock Is Heavy" at jdhartsell.com/matter.html.
But that's not all. The Higgs field that permeates the universe is in fact the recently discovered dark energy that makes up 73% of the mass of the universe. Dark energy is a repulsive force that causes the universe to expand. It was inadvertantly predicted mathematicaly by Albert Einstein while developing his theory of General Relativity. This implied the universe was expanding, which was not known at the time. Einstein introduced his Cosmological Constant into his equations to take away expansion. Later he called this "my greatest blunder". Dark energy is also called negative pressure, negative vacuum, and vacuum energy, in case you Google it. Dark energy is also responsible for the accelerated expansion of the universe that began 5-6 billion years ago, when it's repulsive force finally overtook the mutual gravitational attraction of galaxies. See "Dark Energy Overtaking Gravity" at jdhartsell.com/darkenergy.html.
Finally, since Einstein said you cannot have time and space without mass, and since the Higgs field imparts mass, I say that the Higgs field caused time and space.