One of my current goals is to explain how the Higgs field works to anyone who’s learned a bit of physics at the beginning-university or advanced pre-university level. As a step toward the goal, I am creating a set of pages that explain how fields work, why quantum mechanics implies that sufficiently simple fields have particles, and which aspect of a field’s behavior determines the masses of its particles. You will find that knowing a little physics and a little math is helpful.
[I'm afraid that most of you who never had a beginning physics class at all will have to be patient. It's an even greater challenge for me to explain the Higgs field to someone who's allergic to math, or hasn't had much math yet; I'm hoping my current efforts will help me see how surmount that challenge. But meanwhile you might like to read my Higgs FAQ and my popular article on Why the Higgs Particle Matters.]
The first step is to remember how a ball on a spring works — one of the first things one learns in any physics class — and then learn a little bit about how quantum mechanics changes the answer — one of the first things one learns in a quantum mechanics class. This is where the concept of a “quantum” first makes its appearance in physics. Those articles are now ready for you to look at. The next step [waves, both without and with quantum mechanics] will follow over the coming week.
Note: I’ve included, for the first time on this website, some animated gifs among the figures. These should animate when you click on them.
I know they need improvement; over the next day I’ll be trying to make them faster to load and run. Please be patient and let them load; but do let me know if you can’t make them work at all, and if so, what browser and hardware you’re using. Update: they should be much faster now.