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Suppose that Standard Model Higgs mechanism broke electromagnetism, by e.g. veving the charged component of the doublet, so that the photon was massive with $m_\gamma\sim v$. Could such a Universe still have large scale structure? Atoms (i.e. stable electronic orbits)? Life?

Assuming we got past those hurdles, would it have been much more difficult to have discovered special relativity? Would we have been stuck at Galilean invariance, without the invariance of the speed of light from which to build SR? I appreciate that this is speculative.

And, also, the identical question but for a coloured Higgs vacuum that breaks QCD. Would broken QCD still be confining? I guess so - so we could still have nucleons and the resulting chemistry?

In general I wonder how fine-tuned the spontaneous symmetry breaking pattern must be for life/structure. Without EWSB, I know that there are no stable electron orbits, and no life.

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We don't break fields, we break symmetries. What symmetry are you referring to? –  Ben Crowell May 26 '13 at 0:37
    
Or maybe we just hide them? –  Alfred Centauri May 26 '13 at 0:38
    
"Assuming we got past those hurdles, would it have been much more difficult to have discovered special relativity? Would we have been stuck at Galilean invariance, without the invariance of the speed of light from which to build SR?" No. See physics.stackexchange.com/q/35404/4552 –  Ben Crowell May 26 '13 at 0:41
    
This is very interesting, +1 –  Dilaton May 26 '13 at 6:08
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There would probably be no life if the photon were massive because electromagnetism as the long-range force we know would be replaced by short-range forces only. They're too weak when distances are significant so in such a world, almost all interactions would only proceed by direct collisions – like in nuclear physics in the real world. One can't really create life out of nuclei and their structures only and that would be true in that fictitious world, too. Chemistry and biology in the real world depends on noticeable interactions between atoms and molecules that have to be non-vanishing for pretty diverse distances spanning at least an order of magnitude.

But if observers existed, they wouldn't be stuck with Galilean transformations. Gravity would still respect the laws of relativity, for example. It could be as weak as gravity in our world but electromagnetism – the key other force that is capable of beating gravity at long distances – would be even weaker. So if some intelligent observers could arise, they would still have lots of tools to discover the symmetries of Nature.

No, a broken $SU(3)$ couldn't be confining. At energies lower than the breaking scale, the "gluons" would behave like W-bosons and Z-bosons in the real world and their interactions would be weak and their nonlinearity would be virtually non-existent. So one couldn't get confinement at distances longer than the breaking scale. And confinement is, by definition, a property of dynamics at arbitrarily/infinitely long distances (one can't separate the charged objects) so confinement is incompatible with the Higgsing.

In fact, there is a sense in theoretical physics in which confinement is complementary to Higgsing – it's the same thing in different ("opposite", "S-dual") variables. An explanation would be too technical.

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Interesting nice answer, in particular that the higgsing and confinment are complementary. I guess the OP (and maybe other poeple who step by) could stomach some technicality, so it would be interesting to see an expansion of this last comment ;-) –  Dilaton May 26 '13 at 6:16
    
Thanks for the answer and thank god the vacuum is neutral and colourless ;) –  innisfree May 26 '13 at 19:49
    
"One can't really create life out of nuclei and their structures only" - Robert L Forward would have disagreed! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon%27s_Egg –  Alfred Centauri Jun 6 '13 at 22:34
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