So, I've been reading about the Higgs because of all of this excitement lately with the LHC. I'm just a layman in physics but one thing I understood was that the Higgs field permeates all of space with a non-zero value. So...

Is this like how the vacuum fluctuations don't allow for space to be truly empty?

Does the same thing happen to the electromagnetic field so that nowhere in the universe is there zero charge?

This QM stuff is deep lol

  • $\begingroup$ Quantum mechanics and field theory are not intuitively comprehensible by the layman. It takes years of grounding in mathematics and physics before the tools are comprehensible and a new intuition is built about the microcosm behavior. The electromagnetic field and the weak and the strong, in contrast to the Higgs field, are dependent on the existence of charges. Of course a lot of virtual particles that exist in the vacuum sea are charged, and wherever one looks with some interactions a charge may be found, but not in the sense of the Higgs field. $\endgroup$ – anna v Dec 13 '11 at 8:31
  • $\begingroup$ have a look at the wiki higgs article : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higgs_boson $\endgroup$ – anna v Dec 13 '11 at 8:33
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not asking to fully understand it. I'm just looking for a simple, illustrative, and not heavily mathematical explanation to the question. $\endgroup$ – John Dec 13 '11 at 14:36

John, You mix two different problems.

Standard quantum fields have zero average values (at each space-time point) in the vacuum state. But their quantum energy (which is quadratic in fields) is not null in the vacuum state (it is positive for bosons and negative for fermions). These are quantum vacuum fluctuations (and electromagnetic field corresponds to bosons with spin 1).

Higgs quantum field is very special, because the average of its only "free" part(the Higgs particle) is not zero in the vacuum state (at each space-time point), and it turns to be that this no zero value gives a mass to a lot of particles (W and Z bosons, quarks, leptons, etc...). If you want, the more the Higgs field interact with a particle field, the more the mass of this particle is high.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ok, I think I understand it but I'm a bit of a layman. What does it mean that they're average charge is zero (which I understand) but they're average energy is not zero? $\endgroup$ – John Dec 13 '11 at 21:57
  • $\begingroup$ I was wrong => I am going to edit this... Energy and charge are different. The energy of a standard quantum field in the vaccuum state takes a non-zero value. On the other side, different fields may interact, for instance the electron field and the photon field (EM field) interact, and the strengh of the interaction is proportionnal to the charge of the electron. $\endgroup$ – Trimok Dec 14 '11 at 11:51
  • $\begingroup$ "Does the same thing happen to the electromagnetic field so that nowhere in the universe is there zero charge?" -- You're right I totally screwed up how I asked this question lol. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – John Dec 14 '11 at 14:06

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