Take the 2-minute tour ×
Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. It's 100% free, no registration required.

could the Higgs boson field be responsible for the dramatic mass increase incurred when an object nears the speed of light?

share|improve this question
    
We don't need the Higgs field to explain why an object's relativistic mass increases as it approaches the speed of light. This is explained perfectly neatly by Special Relativity. The Higgs field is needed to account for the rest masses of elementary particles. –  Dmitry Brant Aug 10 '12 at 19:28
add comment

1 Answer

No, it could not.

For one thing, it's not really an object's mass that increases as it approaches the speed of light, just its energy. This extra energy, namely kinetic energy, has nothing to do with the Higgs mechanism. The Higgs field itself is only responsible for the masses of fundamental particles - in other words, roughly speaking, it gives fundamental particles a certain amount of intrinsic energy which is separate from any kinetic energy they may have.

share|improve this answer
    
It's possibly poor pedagogy, but it's somewhat common to speak of "relativistic mass", as shorthand for the difficulty to accelerate a given object. Of course, this does change with velocity due to contributions from the kinetic energy; it's another way of recognising that momentum scales nonlinearly with velocity. While it is the Higgs field is not required to explain that phenomenon, is it possible to use this as another explanatory mechanism for "relativistic mass", in the same way that Lorentz contraction can be explained without Monkowski space via Poincaré's analysis? –  Niel de Beaudrap Aug 10 '12 at 20:38
2  
True, but the reason I didn't mention relativistic mass is that it's kind of an outdated concept; it's often less confusing to just call it energy instead. It's mostly conventional these days that when you say "mass" you mean rest mass, unless otherwise specified. Also, if this is what you were asking at the end: the Higgs field really has no relation to relativistic mass (or energy) whatsoever. They are two entirely different physical mechanisms, you can't use one to explain the other. –  David Z Aug 10 '12 at 20:45
    
why would kinetic energy prevent acceleration, thus preventing the speed of light from being achieved? What does the Higgs Field use to create the mass of ordinary particles? –  joshua boardman Aug 12 '12 at 4:38
    
@joshuaboardman the "distortion" of spacetime that happens as you make something move faster and faster means that acceleration has less of an effect as something approaches the speed of light. As for your second question: would you accept "a vacuum expectation value"? :-P If you're asking about some physical "device" that the Higgs field uses to create mass, it doesn't work that way. The Higgs field itself is the "device," or the closest thing you could get to one. –  David Z Aug 13 '12 at 0:16
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.