1. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    2013 Nobel Prize in Physics - Higgs Field

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Steerpike, Oct 9, 2013.

    I think people saw this coming, but it was fitting that Peter Higgs and François Englert received the prize. Their work relates to how subatomic particles acquire mass, and is a key piece of the standard model.

    https://www.sciencenews.org/article/higgs-field-prediction-lands-nobel-prize-physics

    I do have a question, for physics types out there, though. Articles reporting the prize say that the Higgs boson explains why a photon has no mass. I've wondered about that ever since being taught they are massless back in college.

    A photon has energy - I don't think anyone will dispute that. Given E=mc^2, how can a photon have energy but no mass?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    It was a well-deserved win. I'm curious to know the answer to your question as well.
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    You just know Big Bang Theory is going to have an episode about this. ;)
     
  4. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    The photon has no rest mass. The energy is in its motion.
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    But why doesn't the photon get any mass when it interacts with the Higgs boson? Or maybe it doesn't interact at all? It's too early in the day for physics...
     
  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    OK, sticking my layperson's neck out a little here, either I sort of get it, or hopefully someone who does can add to my grasp of it all and someday I really will get it.

    The Atlantic had a nice article on this for the lay-person last year when the HB was detected/confirmed by LHC experiments. It gave me a better grasp on the matter. For me, it's best absorbed in parts:

    Still Confused About the Higgs Boson? Read This.
    Add to that this LiveScience explanation of the Higgs-Boson:
    From the OP link:
    The bottom line as I, a lay person, understands it (and by all means any physicist out there, feel free to correct me): The HB field particle interaction exerts a drag on particles that we measure as mass. The photon zips through the syrup (drag) without being affected, thus no mass.

    Why it's so hard to conceptualize is because we are used to thinking of the mass as emanating from the particle. But instead, the mass is emanating from the particle-field interaction.


    I think our conceptualizing of the whole concept of matter has yet to be completely fleshed out. When atoms and molecules were discovered, people had to shift paradigms and conceptualize that the solid rock really consisted of more space between its particles than particles. And mass and energy are different states rather than different things altogether. Now for people who understand it, there's nothing very difficult to conceptualize there.

    Then we had a further paradigm shift, particles act like waves when you aren't looking but particles when you look. And if you collect the data not looking in the beginning, but looking at the end, the observation affects the entire pathway as if it knew you were going to observe, or went back in time and changed it's form.

    Then the concept shifted again, with field and particle interactions being more important and particles zipping in and out of existence. I think with just a little more understanding, be it discovering those 11 dimensions of string theory or something else altogether, we'll (as in 'the rest of us' because I'd think that theoretical physicists have a much better conceptualization of these things already) be better able to picture it all in our minds, like we can picture atoms now.
     
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  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You missed the point, Ginger. Everyone already understands what you posted. E=mc^2 relates mass and energy. The question is why photons have energy but no mass in light of it. Sounds like they may have inertial mass, based on some comments above.
     
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  8. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Huh? My E=MC2 was a comment about how that is now common knowledge.

    Photons travel through the syrup without being affected. The HB 'drag' is where the mass is coming from.

    Just like photons don't interact with dark matter, photons are not affected by the HB field so they have no mass.
     
  9. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    No answers yet, then? Damn, I really wanted to know too. I remember reading about it recently, but I forgot the explanation. I wish we had someone competent in physics. Can we poach someone from the physics forum? :D
     
  10. Lydia
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    Lydia Contributing Member Contributor

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    All I want to say is yay Belgium! :D
    I'm not quite smart enough to answer the question, but it'd be interesting if someone can!
     
  11. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    For all we know, Steerpike's question might be an ongoing topic of research in physics and no one knows the answer.
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    A friend of mine is just completing his Ph.D. in physics. I posed the question to him, and his answer was that E=mc^2 is over-simplified, and if you look at the actual math you can make sense of what appears to be an inconsistency. That is certainly plausible to me, because if you just look at that equation on its face there seems to be a problem.
     
  13. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    E=mc^2 defines the exchange rate if you trade energy for mass or vice versa through some reaction. A particle's energy does not directly imply its mass.
     
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  14. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    For a photon, E=p c
     
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  15. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This. The equation really means that energy and mass are, at least theoretically, interchangeable. It says that if you were to convert a photon's energy to mass, the amount of mass you would get is the photon's energy divided by the square of the speed of light. It doesn't mean the photon already has mass.
     
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  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    OK. So it's not necessarily a calculation for determining a particle's energy. In other words, if I wanted to calculate the energy of a photon, that equation wouldn't work because the zero in the mass term would result in an answer of zero.
     
  17. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, my friend sent me that equation as well. Makes sense.
     
  18. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The equation makes sense, and that's all well and good. But conceptually I still don't understand where the photon gets its energy from. Based on Higgs' research, particles get their mass from their interactions with the Higgs field. Is there a similar field or particle that would explain where a photon gets its energy from? Or is it an elementary particle in the same way the Higgs boson is an elementary particle (and thus can't be broken down further)?
     
  19. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    @thirdwind: Yeah, photon is an elementary particle that has properties as both a wave and a particle.
     
  20. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    What I really wanna' know is if a Higgs Boson is a boxers or briefs kinda fellah'. ;)
     
  21. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Ganesha knows.
     
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  22. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    This^, sort of.

    E=MC2 is oversimplified because the real equation is the mass-energy-momentum relation.

    But since I've been dismissed, I see nothing else to be gained here.
     

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