Now, that we have understood what MASS means? The question that scientists are trying to answer is that how Particles acquire MASS? In other words where does this MASS come from?
This is where the HIGGS BOSON comes. But before we get into it, let’s understand a bit about particles and their MASS.
The question is why do we question the existence of MASS? Why can’t we assume it exists all the time as we know that everything we see around has mass. But that is not true. There are some things that exist and don’t have mass. For example, photons, the particles that make light we see around does not have mass but the electron does. So the question is what is mass? Is it a force? Why does a particle have mass? And why do different particles have different mass?
To understand better, watch this video on what gives rise to these questions in the minds of the Scientists to understand why they try to answer what appear to be trivial questions:
See, different particles have different mass. For example, Quarks, the elementary particles that combine to make composite particles such as Protons and Neutrons have mass. Electron another elementary particle also has mass. But Protons have more mass than Electrons, Electrons have more mass than Neutrinos and Photons (the light) have no mass.
Why is this difference in Mass of different particles? For that matter where do they get this mass from? Why MASS at all?
Now, Scientists have a theory for why particles acquire mass: Universe was filled with an extreme hot field, Higgs Filed in the beginning. As it cooled down, below a temperature, the Higgs Field energy went down to the lowest energy level, close to zero level that can be called vacuum, but actually non zero. According to this theory, this energy field continues to exist throughout the universe uniformly and is called non-zero Higgs Filed.
The theory is that when electrons or quarks accelerates through this Higgs Filed, then the Higgs Field exerts a certain amount of resistance or drag and that gives the particle what the Scientists call as Inertial MASS. In other words, the interaction between the particles and the Higgs Filed is what gives rise to the Mass of the particles.
Now the degree of resistance or drag of the Higgs Field depends on the kind of Fundamental particle that it interacts with and hence the difference in mass between the quarks and electrons.
To prove if the theory holds well, Scientists are now engaged in serious experiments that such a field exists. But before we get into how they find out that, lets for a moment assume that such a field did not exist. Then what would have happened?
Scientists believe that all particles are massless, like photons. In fact Scientists also suggests that in early times of the Universe when it was extremely hot, particles did not have any differences and this is the unification of everything that all forces were one at the beginning.
Now, Let’s find out how Scientists are trying to find out if the Higgs Field exists or not?
In order for the Higgs Field to exert its resistance (or drag) on accelerating particles, it has to hit the protons, electrons and other particles with its own particle, named Higgs Boson.
Now why does a Field need a particle to exert its force? You would know the answer to this if you had watched the video presentation above where the scientists explain what we feel as a field is actually a distribution of particles that snap in and out of existence and the strength of the field depends on the density of the particles. So, if you have not got it yet, watch the video once again where he explains what makes the magnetic field it is.
So, if scientists can find the Higgs Boson that proves the existence of the Higgs Field and in turn tells us how particles acquire mass.
Now, instead of me telling you how they search for the Higgs Boson, listen to this video presentation by Dr. Don Lincoln, a Physicist from Fermilab, US Department of Energy, where he explains lucidly how they search for this elusive Higgs Boson.
There gives rise to couple of questions though:
Let’s assume we are able to find this Higgs Boson, and then it tells us how Particles acquire Mass. But that leads to the question of how this Higgs Boson acquires its mass? There are some proposed answers, for example, self-interaction gives the Higgs its mass, yet to be proven though.
The second question is what if we cannot find the Higgs Boson? Then what gives the particles the mass? Are there other theories?
Yes, of course there are multiple theories called Higgsless theories. But for now, the Higgs Field theory is so elegant in the Standard Model that the Scientists are all engaged in finding it out.
Soon we will know….
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