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My understanding is, within quantum mechanics, in a pure vacuum, all known fields have a lowest energy state of zero. The Higgs field is the only exception -- it's lowest energy state is not zero. Hence, the uniform field permeating all of space, through which other particles couple with and thus are endowed mass.

My question is whether this "non-zero lowest energy state" attribute of the field is an inherent lower bound; or if it just happens to describe the status quo of the Higgs field today.

i.e. could one theoretically do something to cancel out the Higgs field? If so, what would happen to mass that was passed into this "Faraday cage" of sorts? Would it immediately explode into radiated energy?

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You could cancel out the Higgs field by raising the temperature so the thermal energy was above the electro-weak transition energy. However what you and I know as matter wouldn't survive this much heating. – John Rennie Oct 9 '12 at 9:16
My laymans suspection is that a manipulation of the Higgs field may be not impossible by its coupling to the W and Z fields (whose manipulation is maybe not impossible by large nuclei with an asymmetric isospin/hypercharge distribution). Unfortunately, my questions going into this direction hit a wall here, so probably the details are even theoretically much more problematic as they seem to me. – peterh Jul 10 at 23:42
There are 2 problems: first, Higgs and the weak field particles decay very fast, so anything change them must do it in around nucleus size. If you could change the Higgs field in a point, it would be normal in the next nucleus. But, the Higgs Lagrangian has also a kinetic term, which (as I understand) means that also its space-derivate has a (probably not negligable) energy. To construct a macro-sized, permanent cage you would probably need tremendous energy. But, the Higgs has a "mexican hat" potential, which means you can rotate its 4 components without an energy – peterh Jul 10 at 23:50
investition (after you paid the energy cost of kinetic term). I suspect, a "cage" in which the Higgs is not zero, but has a differect direction, is maybe much easier. – peterh Jul 10 at 23:53
To answer your original question: I think, the energy from other fields would still work, so gluons and quarks still would get potential energy (-> mass) in eachothers fields, and nearly all mass of the nuclei is coming from a gluon field in them. So, nuclei would be nearly similar. Electrons would get potential energy in the electric fields of the atoms, altough it would be much smaller as they get from the Higgs (510keV to 13.6eV). So, atoms would be much bigger and they would much easier ionize. Probably everything would be plasma even on room temperature. – peterh Jul 11 at 0:04

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