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If, according to relativity matter is energy condensed, wouldn't breaking open the endless Matryoshka dolls of matter to find the most fundamental particle which gives mass to matter be fallacious? Fallacious in the sense that searching for a particle composed of energy, energy being something immaterial forming the composition of matter, is searching for something that in itself has no physical existence therefore breaking down particles into sub-particulate matter would go on ad-infinitum because there would be no such "particle" to be found.

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Can you tell us what level of mathematical education you have, so that we can taylor an answer to you. From your question I would wager that you are not a maths or physics grad. This question seems more philosophicial then physics as it stands. –  Flint72 May 7 at 13:21

5 Answers 5

Mass and matter are not the same thing. Matter has mass, as a property, the same way that it can have color or shape. Mass--the property--is a form of energy as dictated by relativity, but matter is not. Energy isn't a substance or "type of stuff" on its own, but a property of stuff. Nothing is composed of energy, the same way they aren't composed of momentum, or blue. So ultimately when you get into the definitions the idea of a particle 'composed of energy' doesn't end up making sense. Particles are often composed of other pieces with smaller energy, but no particle actually is energy.

The Higgs is also not a part of other matter, but the thing that gives matter mass in the first place. Matter is like a ball being pushed through the molasses that is the Higgs field: the Higgs slows particles down and makes them resist movement, which we interpret and measure as mass in the usual sense.

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I just want to say that this is the best explanation of the distinction between matter, mass and energy that I've ever heard. –  Javier Badia May 7 at 19:01
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"they aren't composed of [] blue" Depends how gravely their voice is and just how fluidly they can play the slide guitar. –  dmckee May 7 at 21:43

To your question, "Why use a hadron collider to search for a [sic. Higgs Boson] particle?"

It is because the Higgs boson is a quanta of a field, that is particles, the Higgs scalar field (in the Standard Model of Elementary Particle Physics). Colliding high energy particles, such as protons in the case of the LCH at CERN, allows one to produce quanta of the fields in the universe.

As regards your question "Wouldnt breaking open the endless "russian dolls" of matter to find the most fundamental particle which gives mass to matter be fallacious?"

No, it would not. You need to read up and understand how the Brout-Englert-Higgs Mechanism works.

Long story short, a complex-valued scalar field, $\phi$, say, which transforms as a doublet under $\mbox{SU}(2)$ transformations has interactions with the $\mbox{SU}(2)$ Yang-Mills fields of the Standard Model. When we choose a certain gauge, called the unitary gauge, the vacuum-expectation-value of this $\phi$ field gives what we call a mass term for the other fields in the thoery.

It it NOT the case that the other fundamental fermonic and bosonic fields of the theory are somehow 'composed' of this $\phi$ field.

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@krue.ron.taiepa : P.S. referring to the quanta of Higgs field as a diety is considered offensive to some peoples ears. –  Flint72 May 7 at 13:40

I think you have a really interesting question there, but you are starting with a slight misunderstanding about matter and energy.

It is certainly true that matter and energy are basically the same thing, and indeed when calculating the curvature of spacetime in general relativity we don't distinguish between them. However that doesn't mean we can make particles with any mass you like. For example there are lots of electrons with the same mass $m_e$, but no particles with a mass of $1.1m_e$ or $0.9m_e$. So you're wrong to suppose that as we go to higher and higher collider energies we'll keep breaking down particles ad infinitum.

To understand why this is, and incidentally why finding the Higgs mattered so much, you need to understand what a particle is. I discussed this in my answer to What keeps mass from turning into energy?, and you might want to have a look at that before proceded any further. In brief, a particle is an excitation in a quantum field. You create a particle by adding energy to a quantum field, but because the fields are quantised you can only add energy in chunks of a fixed size, with each chunk corresponding to one particle. So add one hunk of energy to the electron quantum field and you create an electron, add two chunks and you create two electrons and so on. Likewise, take a chunk of energy out of the field and you destroy an electron.

So the next question is why can't I have a quantum field that takes chunks of energy corresponding to $1.1m_e$, or $0.9m_e$ or any energy I want so I can make particles with those masses? Well that's because the quantum fields are all related to each other by a type of symmetry called local gauge symmetry, and this only permits a certain number of fields to exist. You can't just throw in any field you want because it wouldn't fit with the requirements of the symmetry.

And now we come to why finding the Higgs was so important.

Prior to finding the Higgs we had an established theory called the Standard Model, which is based on the local gauge symmetry I mentioned above. This theory predicts all the particles we see, like electrons, protons, etc, but it also predicted a Higgs boson must exist. So if we managed to find a Higgs this would neatly complete the theory and show it must be true. On the other hand failing to find the Higgs would lead to us having to question whether the Standard Model was the correct theory or whether we had all been barking up the wrong tree. Fortunately we did find the Higgs, so we can all sleep easily knowing that the Standard Model is correct.

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Fallacious in the sense that searching for a particle composed of energy, energy being something immaterial forming the composition of matter,

Your concept of energy is fallacious, i.e wrong and leading you to wrong conclusions

Energy is very well defined macroscopically, with the classical mechanics mathematical theories and the electromagnetic theories, and thermodynamics. In these classical frameworks energy and matter are two differently defined quantities. Masses have energy, electromagnetic fields have energy , energy does not have mass.

Atomic theory introduced a need to enlarge the concept of energy, and as smaller accelerators than the LHC found out for subatomic particles, classical mechanics had to be modified with the special relativity formulation in order for theoretical models to fit the data. In addition Quantum Mechanics was established as the theory of the underlying level of nature.

The famous E=mc**2 must be what has led you astray. The m there is the relativistic mass, but energy mass relation for elementary particles is written as :

rest mass

rest mass in units of c=1

m is an invariant of the relativistic transformations, and called "the rest mass" that characterizes each particle uniquely, in the particles table:

particle table

Elementary particles included in the Standard Mode

is searching for something that in itself has no physical existence

So masses, and the particle quantum numbers, have a physical existence, contrary to your statement, that we detect with our experiments in accelerators, including the LHC.

therefore breaking down particles into sub-particulate matter would go on ad-infinitum because there would be no such "particle" to be found.

No, this is wrong, starting, as I stated above, from wrong premises. It may be possible and people are searching for compositeness, i.e. that what we consider elementary particles now may be composed by smaller "preons", but this does not invalidate the particle table, as the existence of the particles in the table did not invalidate the periodic table of elements. So nested matriouskas, might be in the future, but not in the random manner you are fearing or describing.

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Particle colliders are not being used to search for one single particle of which everything else is composed. According to the Standard Model there are multiple particles that are considered elementary.

The phrase "G*d particle" is slang for the Higgs Boson, which has been recently confirmed to exist. However, the other elementary particles are not composed of Higgs Bosons.

Particles have many other properties beside their mass/energy, such as charge, spin and lifetime. It is important to understand what particles exist and their properties, to have a complete theory of physics.

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