Of Particular Significance

# Chapter 9, Endnote 10

• Quote: If instead the electron’s rest mass dropped to zero in an instant, the impact would be more spectacular: you and I and all other ordinary objects, including Earth, would explode. The detonation would pale compared to a thermonuclear blast, but it would still heat our planet and its creatures far above a survivable temperature.

• Endnote: The power of the explosion and the temperature reached depend on how much of the electron’s lost internal energy is released into the explosion, and that depends in detail on how we turn off the Higgs field. It doesn’t matter much; it’s deadly no matter what you choose to do.

As observed in the endnote, the effect of dropping the rest masses of all electrons to zero depends on exactly how you carry out this admittedly impractical task. That makes it impossible, without a long discussion and a lot of specifics, to estimate how powerful the resulting explosion of ordinary material would actually be.

The most conservative estimate would be obtained by assuming that the rest masses of electrons are reduced to zero in such a way that their internal E=mc2 energy is completely absorbed by the reduction process. In this case, the only energy released would be that of the disintegrating atoms, which would be something like 10 to 100 electron-Volts per electron — enough to heat the material to a temperature of 100,000 to 1,000,000 degrees (either in Centigrade or in Kelvin — which is roughly half the temperature in Fahrenheit).

The most dramatic estimate would be to assume that all the internal E=mc2 energy stored in the electrons is released into the wild as their rest masses are reduced. That’s 511,000 electron-Volts per electron, enough to heat the material to a good fraction of a billion degrees.

Presumably the reality would be somewhere in between.

But . . . this is just fun and games. It’s completely impossible for any human to turn off the Higgs field — or even to imagine how it might be done. The amount of energy required is just ridiculously large, far beyond what the Sun will ever produce.

And if the universe itself manages to do it someday, the details don’t matter. It will mean the end of all planets and all life in the cosmos, without any doubt.

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