Ok, please bear with me because I only have a very little (or no?) understanding of physics outside Newtonian laws... So I was playing a video game called "Mass Effect" in which a particular compound ("Element Zero") can create a field in which objects lose what I understand is inertial mass without being shrunk down or losing matter (with this I mean that they are still physically formed by the same particles), thus rendering possible to accelerate them with a smaller force. Is it theoretically possible for such a thing to happen? Like interfering with Higg's Field?

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    $\begingroup$ No. This is utter nonsense, and only possible in video games. I'm sorry to burst your bubble! Physics is damn awesome though, much more so than these 'simple' modifications people keep on coming up with. $\endgroup$
    – Danu
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 21:37

1 Answer 1


I don't think a big effect like the one in the game is possible, but a small effect is possible...

The mass of a proton plus an electron is greater than the mass of a hydrogen atom (by a little tiny bit) because $E=mc^2$, where $m$ is the inertial mass. The energy of the electron and proton in a hydrogen atom is lower than the energy of the hydrogen atom and the electron which are separated from each other. So the reduction in mass $\Delta m$ is given by $\Delta E=\Delta m c^2$ and $\Delta m =\Delta E / c^2$. The value of $\Delta E$ is $13.6 ~eV$, which gives a value for $\Delta m$ of $\sim 2.4 \times 10^{-35} ~kg $, which is about $1.5 \times 10^{-8}~m_H$ where $m_H$ is the mass of the hydrogen atom.

So the mass of a hydrogen atom is slightly lower than the combined mass of its components. This is the only example I can think of relevant to your question.

edit after good comment from - Francesco Bertolaccini

The release of energy in fusion and fission processes can also be calculated with $\Delta E=\Delta m c^2$ - the energies released are much larger than the energy mentioned above in the formation of the hydrogen atom from an electron and a proton. For more information the wikipedia page on fusion as a power source may be a good place to start.

  • $\begingroup$ I see, and if I'm not wrong that's the principle behind nuclear fission and fusion, right? That's a different perspective from what I was thinking :D So Higg's field has nothing to do with the inertial mass of a particle? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ Yes - good point - this is the fundamental principle between fission and fusion - I will edit answer for this..... I'm afraid that Higg's field is beyond my expertise... I am not sure about that. $\endgroup$
    – tom
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ I see... I guess I'll wait to see if someone has more experience on that field to see what else can be said. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 22:35

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