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I'm sure I'm not the only person with this problem at the moment. I have been asked to give a public (not quite public, scientists, just not physicists) about 'this Higgs boson thing'. I am trying to think of a good analogy because even my own rather limited knowledge of the Higgs mechanism stretches to realising how bad the swimming through treacle metaphor is. I was wondering about refraction although I'm not sure how well understood that will be by a general audience? Superconductivity might be ok for physicsts but again probably rather specific for a more general audience.

Any other tips on how to pitch such a talk are appreciated but I'm aware I have to pose a specific question and describing the Higgs mechanism is the real conundrum.

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I would urge you to not just dwell on the "mass giving" side, but rather its importance as part of the electroweak theory --- restoring unitarity and breaking symmetry. The mass aspect is really more of a side show, especially when hadron masses are almost entirely due to colour energy rather than Higgs interaction. –  genneth Sep 18 '12 at 10:59
possible duplicate of Is there an accepted analogy / conceptual aid for the Higgs field? –  Ron Maimon Sep 18 '12 at 13:06
The linked question tells you the superconductor "analogy", which is ideal, because it isn't an analogy as much as the non-relativistic version of the same phenomenon. –  Ron Maimon Sep 18 '12 at 13:07
Not analogies, but may be partially useful for conveying some ideas to a non specialist audience this and this articles by Flip Tanedo. –  twistor59 Sep 18 '12 at 14:47
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