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I'm not a particle physicist, but I did manage to get through the Feynman lectures without getting too lost. Is there a way to explain how the Higgs field works, in a way that people like me might have a hope of understanding?

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The Higgs mechanism is no different from superconductivity, except the condensate responsible for superconductivity is a relativistically invariant scalar field.

If you have a bosonic field, its particles can be in a Bose-Einstein condensate. When this condensate is charged, you call it a superconductor. A photon in a superconductor gets a mass, and this is the Higgs mechanism. For a relativistic boson described by a scalar field, you give the field a constant nonzero value to make a condensate. When the field has charge, this makes a superconducting condensate which gives the gauge boson a mass.

The whole effect is described in detail on the Wikipedia page on the Higgs mechanism, starting from a nonrelativistic superconductivity model of bosonic particles, and continuing analogously to relativistic condensates.

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    $\begingroup$ I hate to choose between these answers, but this one helps me more, given my extremely limited understanding. $\endgroup$ – Mike Dunlavey Feb 21 '12 at 14:33
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  • simplest explanation without complex mathematical equation for a person don't have a wide knowledge about physics. Higgs Field, think of it as a field of people(audiences) waiting for a celebrity. Then think the celebrity as a particles and this celebrity(particle) walks toward the audience(higgs field). The more popular the celebrity is, the more people will mob him/her or let say the more interaction between the celebrity and the people, and less popular celebs less mob/interaction from the people. More interaction, more mass gains.
  • everytime I discuss Higgs Boson/ Higgs Field/ Higgs Mechanisms, I'll start with this story so that the people I discuss it with already have a vision before I introduce to them heavy mathematics required to further explain the Higgs Boson/field/mechanisms.
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