We (Apparently) Found the Higgs Boson. Now, Where the Heck Did It Come From?

By Amir Aczel | July 9, 2012 1:14 pm

Amir D. Aczel has been closely associated with CERN and particle physics for a number of years and often consults on statistical issues relating to physics. He is also the author of 18 popular books on mathematics and science, and has been awarded both Guggenheim Foundation and Sloan Foundation fellowships. Many thanks to Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas at Austin and to Barton Zwiebach of MIT for their helpful comments.

Event display showing particle tracks from a collision as seen by the CMS experiment

Readers of this blog have probably heard the standard fare about how the Higgs boson “gives mass” to everything in the universe, probably with some kind of analogy, like the one about a famous person walking through a crowded room, pulled every which way by admiring crowds, and that these connections “make the person massive“—as the Higgs field does with particles. Now that we finally seemed to have pinned down the elusive particle, I want to explain where the Higgs came from and what it does. While our understanding of the particle comes from some complicated math, the formulas actually tell a fascinating story, which I’ll recount in this post. All you need to keep in mind is that in the modern understanding of physics, categories aren’t as starkly separate as you might think: particles can be represented as waves or fields, and a force can also be viewed as a particle or a field.

So, a fraction of a second after the Big Bang, the universe had four kinds of “photons” floating around—the usual photon of light, and three other massless particles that “look” and act just like the photon. We label them: W+, W-, and Z. They are bosons, meaning carriers of force, as is the usual photon.

At the Big Bang, the universe also had one, unified, mighty force called the Superforce ruling it. But a tiny fraction of a second before the era I am talking about, the Superforce began to break down, successively “shedding off” part of itself to make the force of gravity, and another part of itself to make the strong nuclear force, which later would be active inside the nuclei of all matter, holding quarks inside protons and neutrons once these composite particles came into being. The two forces, gravity and the strong force—important as they are—do not enter our main story today.

The remnant we have of the Superforce at the time we are talking about, a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang, has three forces of nature held together inside it: electricity, magnetism, and something called the weak nuclear force, which later would be responsible for beta decay, a form of radioactivity. You may remember from a physics course that “electromagnetism” unifies electricity and magnetism, as Maxwell taught us over a century ago. But, during the era I am talking about, there are really three linked forces: electro-magnetic-weak; all three are held together as the electroweak force that remained from the Superforce after it had shed off gravity and the strong force.*

In addition to the remnant of the Superforce that included the unified electroweak forces (and the four associated particles: photon, two Ws, and one Z), there is also something that permeates the fledgling cosmos—a strange field: something like the magnetic field around a bar magnet or the Earth, or like the gravitational field around massive objects. But unlike them, it doesn’t have an associated direction (such as toward the North Pole, or the center of the Earth); that is, it’s a scalar field, not a vector field. Today we call that mysterious entity the Higgs field.

The Higgs field is actually comprised of two complex-valued fields linked together. What does this mean? A complex field looks like a plane with imaginary numbers (multiples of i, the square-root of -1) along the vertical axis, and the usual numbers along the horizontal x axis. Now imagine two such fields. You need a bit of imagination to “see” this: think of 2 pieces of paper at right angles to one another, each labeled up-down by i and left-right by x. (But be aware that this is a kind of visual “cheating”: we are trying to discern a four-dimensional space within the three dimensions we are stuck in, which isn’t literally possible.) So there are really four Higgs particles, each one of them associated with a particular direction of the two complex fields. Thus each of the four spatial directions i,i,x,x, is also a particle.

Now, this four-dimensional Higgs field interacts with the electroweak field, meaning with the three forces, electro-magnetic-weak, and their associated four bosons: the photon of the electromagnetic field and the two Ws and one Z of the weak nuclear field. Imagine this interaction of the two complex Higgs fields with the field of the electroweak force as a further cosmic blast that follows the Big Bang: Here, the 4-Higgs field described above “collides” with the electroweak field, and bam! This cataclysmic event forces three of the Higgses to become absorbed by three of the electroweak bosons, still acting like photons—the W+, the W-, and the Z. As a result of this “collision” the three bosons stop being photon-like and “gain weight” from “eating” one Higgs each. (This is how the physicist Barton Zwiebach of MIT describes this defining event.) This cosmic merger of three Higgs particles with two Ws and one Z still leaves one Higgs free and left over for us to discover (as, indeed, was just announced by CERN on July 4th!), and one still-massless boson of the old electroweak force: the usual photon, the particle (and wave) of light we all know and love—which somehow missed its chance to eat the last remaining Higgs and thus gain its own weight! If it had, we wouldn’t be here…the universe would have no light and probably too much radioactivity.

So this is the “Higgs mechanism,”** which gave mass to the two Ws and the Z—which thereafter live inside nuclei of matter, enabling beta decay—and, more importantly, to quarks and the electron. As the universe cools down slightly, it becomes a dense plasma of quarks, called “quark soup,” and some time later, as the cooling trend continues, the quarks come together in threes to make protons and neutrons; these make hydrogen and some helium and lithium nuclei, and electrons start to orbit them to make simple atoms. In some places, hydrogen (and helium and some lithium) gas falls inward, pulled down by the force of gravity, to make stars and galaxies. The rest of the elements of the universe, with higher atomic numbers and weights, will all be “cooked” in fusion reactions inside the stars.

But how did the electrons and quarks that make up all the matter in the universe (for technical reasons, perhaps except for neutrinos) get their mass? That we still don’t know. But once we understand how the Ws and the Z gain their mass from their interaction with the Higgs field, we assume that we also know how mass in general is created: through the same “Higgs mechanism,” and that this primeval cosmic event shortly after the Big Bang has thus created the mass of the universe: electrons, quarks, stars, galaxies, planets, trees, animals, and us.***

So how did the Higgs itself get its mass?—we now know from the discovery just announced at CERN that the Higgs has a mass of about 125 GeV (about 1 1/2 times the mass of the Ws and the Z). The answer may surprise you: The Higgs gives itself  mass!

Why did physicists think up such a weird particle decades before they saw any evidence of it? Where did all these ideas come from? The answer is: pure mathematics! Ever since Galileo said: “The book of nature is written in the language of mathematics,” physics and mathematics have been coming together. The announcement last week showed once again that physicists’ mathematical maneuvers aren’t just navel-gazing but a powerful way of building theories and predicting as-yet unseen aspects of the world.


* The fact of the unification of these three forces of nature in the very early universe was proved by Steven Weinberg in his Nobel Prize work of 1967, in which he also predicted the existence of the Z particle and was even able to estimate the masses of the two Ws (whose existence had been proposed earlier) and the Z to amazing accuracy–as was confirmed when the three particles were dramatically discovered at CERN in 1983 by teams headed by Carlo Rubbia; hints of Weinberg’s Z had already been glimpsed in a neutrino experiment in a bubble chamber called Gargamelle, also at CERN, in 1973. Electoweak unification had also been explained, from different angles, by Sheldon Glashow and by Abdus Salam, who shared the 1979 Nobel Prize with Weinberg.

** This particle, field, and mechanism bear just Peter Higgs’ name, but our understanding really comes from the work of six different physicistsHiggsRobert Brout and Francois Englert; and Tom Kibble, Gerald Guralnik, and Carl Hagen, who wrote three papers, all in 1964, in which they presented work that could imply the existence of a particle (and field, and mechanism) that somehow later took its name from Peter Higgs exclusively.

*** The above story is all about what is called the “Standard Model Higgs.” It’s the “plain vanilla” kind of Higgs boson that completes the Standard Model of particle physics, a theory that has been developed over the last half-century and has enjoyed immense success in explaining much about particles and forces. But there are possibly more “exotic” Higgs particles, implied to exist by more complicated theories such as supersymmetry. So far, however, there is no solid evidence from experiments at CERN or elsewhere that this or other complex theories “beyond the standard model” are true.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Top Posts
  • Joseph

    I understand that a lot of important detail is going to be left by the wayside in a simplification like this, but one point really bugs me.

    Gravity splits off before the Higgs even takes the stage. So why do massive particles attract each other, and what does gravity mean without mass?

  • S2

    Thank you for this – this is the clearest description of the Higgs Boson that I’ve seen. :)

    I have reached my 2nd year Physics/Mathematics degree. My biggest question is that how a field manifests itself as a particle. I don’t understand this.

    Maybe I’ll find out next year – or perhaps I need a post-graduate degree?


  • Justin Petitt

    Excellent. I am hugely fascinated by quantum physics/cosmology and avidly follow man’s quest to discover the underlying mechanisms that make our universe “go”. I realize that this is an important step towards that end. I also realize that there is still very much that we do not know. That proving the Higgs to exist is only an indication that we may be heading in the right direction. Unfortunately, the popular media has heralded this as the dawn of some kind of new age where man has finally unlocked all the secrets of the universe. I anticipate using this link frequently in the near future to try and calm many folk who view this as validation for building a starship Enterprise or whatever else they come up with. :)

  • karl

    Great article!!!! Finally a higgs piece that doesn’t consist of “no one knows what it is”.

  • HookemHorns

    Great article, in fact, this is probably the best “layman” Higgs boson description I have seen,but there is a boo boo. :( Prior to electroweak symmetry breaking, the w+,W-, and Z bosons did not exist and neither did the photon. Instead there are the B^0 vector boson field that interacts with a strength proportional to a quantity called weak hypercharge. The W^0 vector boson field, which has a weak isospin of 0. The W+ and W- are still accounted for in the Lagrangian, but at this point in the Universe’s existence, they would never be created because there were nothing they could interact with. The W^0 and B^0 bosons were massless and it was only after the Universe cooled to the point that the Higgs field decayed into a lower energy state that the W and B boson fields mixed together to form the familiar Z boson and photon.

  • markogts

    One thing that I did not understand: is the Higgs boson the quantum for gravity interactions? Does the Higgs proves quantization of gravity?

    Another question: the “merging” of Higgs field with bosons happened before or after the inflation? I have to admit, I would have less difficoulties to accept inflation if applied to massless universe.

  • GuruJ

    Thank you for this. I still don’t completely get the Higgs (ok, it still makes my brain hurt) but I’m beginning to least get a sense for what I don’t understand :)

  • Ken

    Does this give any support or contradiction to the Big Bang theory itself? To my VERY limited understanding, it would only further show how the Big Bang was not possible.

  • Amir Aczel

    Hi ! Thanks for all your great comments! Very knowledgeable readers! Electroweak symmetry breaking scale is the energy level where this happens, and with it the mass idea through interaction with the Higgs field. Sure, you can call the pre-existing particles anything else if you like. The fact that gravity and the strong force break off slightly earlier (at higher energy levels) doesn’t make much of a difference, it’s simply a matter of energy scale. When quantum gravity becomes a viable quantum field theory, its boson will be the graviton (spin 2, compare with Higgs spin 0 and photon and Ws and Z spin 1). I will get more technical–since it seems you relish this, and I’m glad!–in my next post! :)

  • Amir Aczel

    I forgot to answer the question about how a particle is a wave and a field. The best explanation I know comes from a wonderful book called “Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell,” by A. Zee (it is, indeed, the “A to Z” of QFT!). Zee likens a physical field to a mattress with springs. If you jump up and down on the mattress (the analogy is perturbing the field), you can see that you can create a traveling or standing wave in the mattress (find a weak mattress, or jump really hard–try it!). But, as the French prince-physicist Duke Louis de Broglie taught us 100 years or so ago, in quantum mechanics a particle is a wave and a wave is a particle (Schroedinger’s equation is built on that principle). So every time you have a wave, you can associate with it a particle (a sound wave is a phonon, a light wave is a photon, an electron has associated with it an electron wave). Thus: perturbation of the field–>wave–>particle.

  • Amir Aczel

    Two more answers: It of course supports the Big Bang idea. And, most cosmologists believe the eletroweak symmetry breaking happens after inflation. But all of these epochs are a tiny, tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang.

  • Steve Smith

    particles can be represented as waves or fields, and a force can also be viewed as a particle or a field. … I forgot to answer the question about how a particle is a wave and a field.

    I happen to have Zee right here … Zee actually makes the point that QFT is necessary because the Schrödinger wave view doesn’t allow for particle creation/annihilation:

    Particles can be born and particles can die. It is this matter of birth, life, and death that requires the development of a new subject in physics, that of quantum field theory. … Feynman diagrams can be thought of simply as pictures in spacetime of the antics of particles, coming together, colliding and producing other particles, and so on. One student was puzzled that the particles do not move in straight lines. Remember that a quantum particle propagates like a wave; D(x – y) gives us the amplitude for the particle to propagate from x to y. Evidently, it is more convenient to think of particles in momentum space: Fourier told us so.

    Personally, I prefer Feynman’s popular approach in QED, which is to come right out and poo-poo the whole idea of waves and just admit up front that everything is a particle. Page 15:

    I want to emphasize that light comes in this form—particles. It is very important to know that light behaves like particles, especially for those of you who have gone to school, where you were probably told something about light behaving like waves. I’m telling you the way it does behave—like particles.

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/ Uncle Al

    What Higgs? “8^>)

    @Amir/11 The Big Bang burped a chiral pseudoscalar false vacuum whose decay powered inflation. All parity violations, symmetry breakings, Weak interaction, and matter-antimatter bias are then fundamental. The inflation-diluted false vacuum remnant, active only toward fermionic matter (quarks, leptons), biased biological homochiralty. Dilute vacuum anisotropy plus Noether’s theorems allow a small violation of angular momentum conservation. This is the Tully-Fisher relation between galactic visible mass and the fourth power of asymptotic circular velocity, Fig. 4 of arxiv:astro-ph/0509305, sourcing Milgrom acceleration in MOND.

    Test for it. Opposite shoes fit into a trace chiral vacuum background with trace different energies. They vacuum free fall along trace non-identical minimum action trajectories, violating the Equivalence Principle (selecting ECKS gravitation over general relativity). Load an Eötvös balance with chemically and macroscopically identical, single crystal test masses in enantiomorphic space groups (opposite shoes): α-quartz in P3(1)21 versus P3(2)21 or γ-glycine in P3(1) versus P3(2). Apparatus sensitivity is 5×10^(-14) difference/average for any EP violation.

    Somebody should look. The worst it can do is succeed.

  • Marty

    I don’t mean any disrespect to the author. But I still don’t understand any of this. I’ve had a year of undergraduate college physics and I’m familiar with quantum mechanics. But I’m struggling to make any sense of this. Am I the only one?

    Do you think we could have “The Higgs Boson for Dummies?”

  • http://patriceayme.wordpress.com/ Patrice Ayme

    The Higgs has nothing to do with the Big Bang. To claim otherwise is equivalent to assering that all and any sufficiently energetic physics has to do with the Big Bang, a philosophical mistake. At the very least.

  • christina knight

    My own prediction is that the standard model will eventually be replaced by a much better model, and that the Higgs will suffer the same fate as the ether, and the concepts of absolute space and absolute time. Remember that the dustbin of history never overflows and the Higgs will find its own place within this receptacle of discarded ideas.

  • John Motz

    Well done. Best article yet I have found explaing the Higgs mechanism I read one artical saying the Higgs was like candy. Other particles eat it and gain mass. LOL

  • http://JamesEdwardTracy.com James Tracy

    Is not the Higgs field simply an inertialess Aether of sorts?

  • Phil Evans

    If infinity exists, which it must, then the Big Bang must be our view of some infintely repetitive function, i.e. a wave. All the little pieces around us look like particles, when we try to define or measure them, but in the the end they are what makes up the wave.

    An infinite field must also be homogenous at some scale, so the wave and the place where the wave is are also identical.

    Therefore the particles and the waves and the field which they compose are at some scale identical, part of a unity, each in the end indistinguishable from the other.

    Religionists can be happy to recognize this infinite one thing as the Infinite One.

    You can try this at home! If you try to experience the present instant, everything will begin to disappear into that unity as you get close to that awareness!

    Physicists should keep at it though, because the more we learn about the particles the more stuff we can enjoy!

  • Robby

    I must be missing something because it seems contradictory to first state that the Higgs field is a scalar field and not a vector field but then later discuss the directions of the two complex fields. Could you elaborate a little on the association between the particles and the two complex fields?

  • Barb Hoffmann

    “I will get more technical–since it seems you relish this, and I’m glad!–in my next post! :)” If you get any more technical in your original post, we interested English teachers won’t be able to follow!

    The publicity of this “discovery” has captured the imaginations of a lot of people. An adult English class of cosmetic marketing people wants me to discuss the Higgs boson with them next week. If your post weren’t simple, I wouldn’t be able to use it as background for myself. And that would be a pity because it is very interesting.

    Your explanation was just right for me, and I appreciate your ability to simplify. Thank you.

  • http://antigravitationalforce.com christina knight

    Phil Evans, the problem with General Relativity is that it is a classical theory and not a quantum theory of gravity. The notion that the Big Bang began with a singularity is one indication that General Relativity is incomplete. However,, if there was no singularity then what was the structure of the universe at the time of initial expansion? If the universe had a finite size then it is reasonable to assume that it also would have had to have a center which is not possible. The only other alternative is that the universe was both infinite in extent and extremely dense at the moment of the Big Bang. The universe has always been infinite in extent and the only thing that has changed is its relative density as it develops complex structure during its evolution and development. An evolutionary cyclic model is the best model to reconcile the notions of a universe with infinite extent with a universe that expands and contracts. It also provides the best explanation for the nature of the parameters that exist in our universe that just happen to make life possible (eliminating the need for the anthropic principle).

  • http://www.wildrhymetrees.com/ Tom Arnone

    The image link for this article at:
    does not seem to be working….

  • http://www.jdweir.com Yann

    Yes, a great article.

    But…. how does a Higgs give itself mass?

  • Amir Aczel

    I promise the next post won’t be harder to understand! It will just show the Higgs from another angle, and I think one that has not been explained in the media. It is the way theoretical physicists think about the world, using the idea of symmetry. The piece is written, I am just waiting for the editor to approve it… :)

  • Mdejess

    “We (Apparently) Found the Higgs Boson. Now, Where the Heck Did It Come From?”

    I invite someone who has read this article carefully and understood it well to tell me as the author does not seem to have told me: where the heck did it the Higgs Boson come from, in a few words less than 50.


  • [probably not the real] Evan O’Dorney

    The “big bang” erupted into a finite space. When the initial quantum emitted from the “big bang” interacted with the edges of this space it created the higgs field.

    Think of it this way – in order for energy to be transferred from one quantum to another there must be an interaction (i.e. in the the same way the LHC is used to collide particle).

    Some of the energy was absorbed and in turn created the gravitational field that governs large masses. The energy that was not absorbed by other quantum was used to create the “Higgs” field which governs the very small quantum masses – much in the same way an ocean of water serve as frictional force to fish. The “higgs” field serve as a traffic cop for all quantum. It tells quarks to be quarks and gluons to keep quarks together (i.e. the DNA of the universe).

  • [probably not the real] Evan O’Dorney

    One of my profs asked me why the “big bang” exploded into a finite space.

    1. in order for mass to exist there must be interactions between quantum and energy
    2. in order for interactions to exist there must be a spatial environment that allows interactions to takes place
    3. if the spatial environment was infinite (i.e. had no boundaries), then no interactions would take place – “big bang” stuff would just stay massless with out having the OPPORTUNITY to interact – the universe would just be a soup of mass less photons and gluons
    4. if order for the initial particles to have an OPPORTUNITY to interact – the space that these particles exploded into must at some point come into contact with boundary that either absorbs the energy of these particle and/or redirects these particles back onto one another thereby creating the interactions needed for the particles to exchange energy which in turn created the Higgs field

    this is a very simplistic explanation – but I have initiated some of the math that supports this theory of a finite space – I have been asked to allocate some of my research cycles to particle physics – I am hoping to create some interesting math that can be experimentally tested at the LHC


  • http://antigravitationalforce.com christina knight

    Evan O’Dorney, I disagree with statement number (3).”if the spatial environment was infinit (i.e. had no boundaries), then no interactions would take place….” If an infinite universe is elastic and capable of expanding and contracting then it can produce the local variations in density that permit force interactions to occur. In fact, I would go further to say that the notion of a finite universe is as absurd as the notion that the universe can have an ultimate beginning (which is why a some type of cyclic model is the only model that makes sense given the confirmed evidence that the universe is expanding).

  • http://antigravitationalforce.com christina knight

    I think that one of the problems with modern physics is the unfortunate deification of mathematics. Sadly many if not most physicists have forgotten (or perhaps have never realized) that mathematics is a LANGUAGE, and subject to many of the limitations found with spoken languages. Certainly, mathematics is capable of being more precise than any spoken language. However, a mathematical model that does not correspond to reality is in practical terms useless, and at the worst an impediment to the attainment of genuine knowledge (witness the mess that is found in current formulations of String Theory). The main reason much of the absurd claims made about quantum behavior have arisen is because of the shortcomings of the Standard model. It is virtually certain that when the correct physics is discovered, and the Standard model is replaced by a better model, that quantum behavior will become much more intelligible and explainable.

  • Chris Whelan

    Great article and also interesting comments.

    My dumb question is: before the Higgs field/”mass event”, were all waves and related “particles” travelling at the speed of light? If they were, then how was the time duration measured?

    And if there was no mass, does that mean spacetime was flat because there was nothing to distort the spacetime? Or can high energy radiation on its own distort spacetime?


  • [probably not the real] Evan O’Dorney

    christina –

    elasticity is a force –
    a force is any influence that causes an object to undergo a certain change; F = ma
    force requires mass – mass requires energy

    the universe is not expanding and contracting in the ways that your perceive it to be (i.e. like a balloon getting blown up and shrinking into an event horizon)

    rather the interactions in our known universe are becoming less volatile (not to say that a nebula/black hole here and there are not significant events)

    if our universe had no boundaries, then the higgs boson would simply not exist – it needs a boundary condition to serve as the repelling force which in turn allows mass to exist via the interactions that in turn allow energy to be exchange at the quantum level

    let’s use the analogy of water molecules again and a fish interacting with the water molecules – where higgs boson is the water molecule and quarks are the fish. In order for the water molecules to provide a frictional force by which the fish can interact with there needs to be a boundary for the water (i.e. fish tank under atmospheric pressure or an ocean bounded by the continental shelves and the gravitational pull of the earths core). Without these boundaries there would be no reason for the water molecules to stay tightly coupled – they would just be a 2 dimensional membrane that the fish does not interact with.

    My dumb question is: before the Higgs field/”mass event”, were all waves and related “particles” travelling at the speed of light? If they were, then how was the time duration measured?

    [EVAN] the mass less wave/particle were “traveling” in a “direction” at a “speed” until there was a reason for them to interact, exchange energy, and obtain a mass. This direction/speed is not what you perceive it to be (since direction/speed are byproducts of the boson interactions). The speed of light for our universal laws was derived based on the amount of initial energy and size of the initial boundary conditions. My math will explain this.

    And if there was no mass, does that mean spacetime was flat because there was nothing to distort the spacetime? Or can high energy radiation on its own distort spacetime?

    [EVAN] yes – prior to mass space/time an empty condition. Think of it this way 2i is a complex number with 0 as the integer. But it can be rewritten as (1+i)*(1+i)

    within 2i there is a non zero integer but it is not apparent unless it is broken down into another form. Space and time may not appear to exist in some forms – but they are there. It just depends on the initial conditions – size of the boundary and initial amount of energy.

    Again without the math I can only offer up simplistic examples. Should have something in the Fall – waiting to get some feedback from a couple people ties up at CERN right now.

  • http://antigravitationalforce.com christina knight

    Evan, here is an exerpt from my website antigravitationalforce.com: “..also proposes the existence of a short range force ( the antigravitational force) which is limited to sub-planck length distances. It is this force which establishes the minimum size of a discrete unit of space (and renders the existence of singularities impossible).

    More issues relating to this subject are discussed within this book (including how an unstable relationship between the gravitational and antigravitational forces is responsible for the perpetual cyclic expansion and contraction of the universe and for the evolution of cosmic parameters). In addition it is the unstable relationship between the oppositional gravitational forces which produces the thermodynamic cosmic gradient that is reduced during the expansion phase of the cosmic cycle. [Note: it is also the unstable relationship between the gravitational and antigravitational forces that has evolutionary development of the complex structural (homologous) relationship between the the three types of matter (dark energy, dark matter, and baryonic matter), during the course of cyclic evolution]

  • http://antigravitationalforce.com christina knight

    I meant to say [Note: It is also the unstable relationship between the gravitational and antigravitational forces that has been reponsible for the evolutionary development of the complex structural (homologous) relationship between the the three types of matter (dark energy, dark matter, and baryonic matter), during the course of cyclic evolution.]

  • [probably not the real] Evan O’Dorney

    Christina – there is no anti-gravitational force – it would then imply anti-matter

    I recommend you listen to/attend some of Professor Leonard Susskind lectures on the Standard Model to bridge your understanding of this subject.

  • http://antigravitationalforce.com christina knight

    Evan O’Dorney, There has to be something like an antigravitational force that has a subplanck length range for space to be discrete. It also suggests a more plausible means of how the big bang could have initiated without resorting to the ‘hocus pocus’ of the so-called ‘quantum fluctuation’ that permitted an alleged, infinitely dense point of space to arbitrarily expand (perhaps it got bored). The big bang could best be explained as the reaction to the unstable interaction of the gravitational and antigravitational force at the moment of initial expansion. Incidentally, I have read some of Susskind’s work. I have only become more convinced over time that the Standard Model is woefully inadequate. However, I do appreciate your concern, and I do think you mean well. It seems to me that contemporary physics (particularly Cosmology) is a horrible mess right now. I just hope I am able to live long enough to say I told you so (although I am not too hopeful given the stubborn rigidity of the mainstream orthodoxy). I hate to say it because I despise religion, but contemporary physicists are no better than clerics at times.

  • James

    I like Christina Knight’s ideas a lot!! You think outside the box, and yet with using much of what we understand about physics and cosmology.

  • [probably not the real] Evan O’Dorney

    you are choosing a path that will lead to a dead end (i.e. inflation)

    I have been working with Penrose to iron out his theories relating to eternal cycles which relies on a higgs boson to serve as the switch to turn on/off each cycle. It also requires a finite space (brane) which bounds the energy so that it can be converted into matter using an adiabatic process.

    Each universe goes through different phases that can be predicted to a certain extent – we are now fairly certain that the end condition for universe A is also the beginning condition for universe A+1. The one continuity across each universe is the higgs boson.

    Fractal geometry is also proving to be a useful tool in our analysis which seems to be a good way to predict patterns in Hawking radiation.

  • http://antigravitationalforce.com christina knight

    Evan, you would be right that…”end condition for universe A is also the beginning condition for universe A+1…..” if the 2nd Law is absolute. It is more likely that the universe is capable of recycling its thermodynamic waste (the entropy produced by the end of ‘universe A’) at the termination of universe A’s collapse phase, converting it into high quality energy at the onset of oniverse A +1’s expansion onset. This is accomplished as the unstable interaction of the gravitational and antigravitational forces reoccurs at the collapse of universe A producing the expansion of universe A +1. It must be this way in order to explain the apparent fine-tuning of cosmic parameters as well as the low entropy state at the beginning of our universe. The evolutionary cyclic model arises as a consequence of the unstable relationship between the anti-G force and the G force. It is this inherent instability which is responsible for the universe’s tendency to evolve greater complexity.

  • http://antigravitationalforce.com christina knight

    In my model the space-time geometry possesses a complex hierarchical structure that comprises twelve dimensions—nine space dimensions and three time (the extra time dimensions arise as a consequence of the stratum specific variation in the constant c). Furthermore, this structure is divided into three strata, each of which has its own four-dimensional structure (with 3 space and 1 time dimension)and stratum-specific parameters—with variations in the gravitational constant G, the speed of light c, and the Planck constant.
    It is the relationship between the intrastratum and interstratum velocity of a particle to the intrastratum velocity c as measured in the topmost stratum, that determines whether the particle has mass (as it oscillates through the tristratum structure). There is no need for a Higg’s field to impart mass to particles, and it was not the Higg’s that was recently observed by the LHC. The massive particle that was observed was produced through contraction of the aforementioned tristratum structure and the tristratum influence of special relativity (each stratum having a relatively slight variation in the constant c). The contraction of the strata is only brief so the particle can only exist for a brief time.

  • http://terrytao.wordpress.com [probably not the real] Terence Tao

    Christina – you really need to stop making incoherent comments that undermine the serious work being done in this domain. Evan is being nice by constructively giving you some advice.

    To the curious – I will be conducting a symposium at UCLA on Aug 3rd that relates the Prime Number Theorem to how particles interact with the Higgs field. It will be taped and posted about a month later.

  • Amos Zeeberg (Discover Web Editor)

    Thanks for the comments, Terence and Evan. Will keep my eye out for video from the symposium—sounds good.

    Christina, the Big Bang is a solid theory that’s been confirmed by lots of experiments, and considering that CERN just confirmed existence of the long-predicted Higgs boson, now’s probably not a good time to criticize the theory around that, either. I think we’ve gotten enough of your own ideas about cosmology in the comments.

  • Evan O’Dorney

    The comments labeled “Evan O’Dorney” are not by the real Evan O’Dorney.

    Which makes it quite likely that the comments labeled “Terence Tao” are not by the real Terence Tao.

  • http://www.primons.com Mario E. de Souza

    The Standar Model Higgs boson does not exist. Please, go to http://www.primons.com to see why.

  • tini

    how can particles in the first exist without weight

  • Pat Geaney

    Where did the Higgs particle come from?. Higgs and his fellow travelers try to make us believe that the ‘particle’ came from NOTHING!!!. Madness surely?

    • Eric Marsh

      Religious people seem to have a huge problem with the concept of “don’t know.” Consequently they have to make things up and then having done so they get stuck on them even when other evidence based explanations come along. Science is full of “don’t knows.” That’s why we have it – to learn. Religious people either seem to believe that they know everything or hide their “don’t knows” in “god works in mysterious ways.”

      • Pat Geaney

        Thank you. Unfortunately I have forgotten my Disqus Password. Please can you help.Thank you
        Subject: Re: Comment on We (Apparently) Found the Higgs Boson. Now, Where the Heck Did It Come From?

  • dreamcar49

    Yes, where and how did particles come to be before the alleged big bang? Like who created particles or any other form in the first place. That is, how can you create something from nothing? The creation explanation seems to make more sense than a big bang theory for why humans and earth were formed. Haven’t we tried to scope the cosmos for other signs of life without success? You would think that by now we would have found other planets with life forms, assuming that conditions that caused life on earth could be duplicated in another universe.

    • Eric Marsh

      As far as I can tell the so called creation explanation explains nothing.

  • Weismonger

    Just as dark matter was at one time “undetectible” so is where the Higgs bosum is also….awkward sentence. We just don’t have the tools to “detect” the “other” substances in the universe.

    Matter has always existed, the big bang term is a misnomer, we did not come come from nothing. Nothing does not exist, nor can something come out of nothing.

    The silly bible and other such myths stated that disease came from ” demons, jinns,” or “god” was punishing the sinner. Well, duh we know that is not true…and so in just the last 100 years, 5000 years of religious certified just flew out the window.

    Other particles will be discovered, no matter how exotic we thing they are now. Just wait.

  • Eric Marsh

    There are many particles that don’t have weight (mass) even today. A neutrino is one case in point, though it might have a miniscule amount.

  • Eric Marsh

    I’m trying to get my head around how the Higgs affects mass at relativistic speeds and in gravity wells. I guess this article is a good starting point to give me some sort of a handle on how the Higgs adds mass to certain particles.

  • john reyes

    but the truth is…there is still a force that created those things..it is not only a force but a true and absolute power that creates and governs it…how could a quark resembles to become a human being like us who has a very complex bodily metabolism processes, comprehension and reasoning..that lives in a very complex environment full of greed in power and slavery of money….it is not by chance that we just created by a mere explosion and ended up here disscusing about it….we are just enslaved by our consciousness in believing that we came from an explosion……

    what we all perceive, comprehend and reasoning are just a part of the knowledge that came from the tree of knowledge that our heavenly father forbids us to know……if why it is forbidden? then look around us today….do we live equally and live happilly? my answer is no….some are happy and some are in misery….thats why God forbids us to know what is good and bad…

  • Steve

    Before the big bang – some claim an empty universe of positive charge may have come into contact with an antimatter universe, if such exists – then the resulting contact would create an energy force which would have been immense and sudden – a big bang. While this may be a simple excuse for a big bang – if such a thing could happen again, it would likely destroy the current universe but hopefully start something new. – sigh


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About Amir Aczel

Amir D. Aczel studied mathematics and physics at the University of California at Berkeley, where he was fortunate to meet quantum pioneer Werner Heisenberg. He also holds a Ph.D. in mathematical statistics. Aczel is a Guggenheim Fellow, a Sloan Foundation Fellow, and was a visiting scholar at Harvard in 2005-2007. He is the author of 18 critically acclaimed books on mathematics and science, several of which have been international bestsellers, including Fermat's Last Theorem, which was nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Award in 1996 and translated into 31 languages. In his latest book, "Why Science Does Not Disprove God," Aczel takes issue with cosmologist Lawrence M. Krauss's theory that the universe emerged out of sheer "nothingness," countering the arguments using results from physics, cosmology, and the abstract mathematics of set theory.


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