After a hiatus for a hurricane and a trip to a conference in Asia, I am adding one more article to my series on How the Higgs Field Works, following my series of articles on Fields and Particles. (These sets of articles require a little math and physics background, the sort you’d get in your first few months of a beginning university or pre-university physics class. I’m still thinking about how to structure a similar set of articles that require no math or physics; that’s much harder, of course!)
The first article in the series explained the basic Idea behind how the Higgs field works. Then came an article about why and how the Higgs field becomes non-zero, and a third concerning how the Higgs particle arises as the quantum of waves that oscillate around the non-zero value of the Higgs field. The new article tries to clarify why there’s no alternative to introducing a Higgs field, explaining that it’s otherwise impossible to reconcile two apparently contradictory features of our world: a mass for the electron (and many other types of known particles) and the properties of the weak nuclear force.
This article contains the most elaborate equations and concepts that I’ve had to introduce to my readers, so it won’t be suitable for everyone (though it still only requires some first-year physics/math.) But on the other hand, it seems necessary for me to write it, since it’s the only place that I’ve explained not only why the Higgs field can give mass to the known particles, but why it (or something very much like it) must do so.
(Note that in these articles I’m mainly concentrating on the simplest type of Higgs, the Standard Model Higgs field and particle. However, most of the basic concepts in these articles apply even for more complicated cases.)