I am slow and need some help understanding this. So has the Higgs boson always existed? If not, than how did it come to exist? What would have excited it before matter or particles were created? So this field, when excited by particles, forms and molds protons, neutrons and electrons into atoms, which then attract to become structured matter like everything we can see, including us?

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    $\begingroup$ Please don't use all caps in the title. It comes off as screaming. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Nov 15 '15 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ You might have a look at this. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… It's Wikipedia, which isn't always current, but it's a pretty good approximation of a standard theory of the early universe and it touches on most of your questions. Different things formed at different times. $\endgroup$
    – userLTK
    Nov 16 '15 at 8:47

There is a single Higgs field that fills all of space and always has. Similarly there is a single electron field filling all of space. And an up quark field, and a photon field and a $W^+$ field and a Z field and a gluon field and a $W^-$ field and some neutrino fields and fields for down quarks and top and bottom quarks and charm and strange quarks and muons and taons.

But that's it. One field for each particle, in all of space, always.

The fields can change over time, but they don't stop existing or start existing and one didn't come from the others or before the others or vice versa. All them, everywhere, always.

But the fields can change, they can change to have more quanta or less quanta, and that's what we talk about when we say one photon or two photons, three electrons, or four electrons.

So this field, when excited by particles, forms and molds protons, neutrons and electrons into atoms, which then attract to become structured matter like everything we can see, including us?

The particles in some sense are the excitations of the field. But the protons hold the electrons together in an atom, mostly through interactions mediated by photons. And the protons and held together mostly by gluons, which also hold neutrons together and keep the protons and neutrons close to each other (in the sense where they are close).

The Higgs isn't really involved in those interactions. It's more about changing how the fields themselves can be excited into the particles through interactions with the Higgs field.

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    $\begingroup$ Small point, but his question was about the Higgs Boson, which probably didn't appear until the Universe cooled enough for that mechanism to happen, somewhere around the break-up of Electro-Weak Symmetry: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… $\endgroup$
    – userLTK
    Nov 16 '15 at 8:44
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    $\begingroup$ @userLTK Maybe. However, firstly, discussing that requires distinguishing a vacuum and a false vacuum, symmetry breaking, and really a general disclaimer about how being a vacuum is not covariant to acceleration. Secondly, I'm pretty sure that question has been asked before. $\endgroup$
    – Timaeus
    Nov 16 '15 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for taking the time to help me understand this. $\endgroup$
    – EFoley
    Nov 17 '15 at 4:46

One has to distinguish between fields and particles.

Fields are a mathematical construct , similar to a coordinate system, defined at all (x,y,z,t) points . Quantum mechanical fields are at the same time operators with expectation values.

Particles are excitations on the fields and their interactions are measurable in the laboratory. If no electron exists, the expectation value of the electron field is zero, which is the fact in most of space except where electrons exist.

In the standard model of particle physics there is a unification of interactions at very high energies, energies that existed in the beginning of the history of the universe. This is implied by the extrapolation of the measured running coupling constants and it is at energies before symmetry breaking, where all the masses of the elementary particles are zero, including the weak interaction mediators, W and Z.

This necessitated the introduction of a special field called that higgs field.

In the Standard Model of particle physics, the Higgs mechanism is essential to explain the generation mechanism of the property "mass" for gauge bosons. Without the Higgs mechanism, or some other effect like it, all bosons (a type of fundamental particle) would be massless, but measurements show that the W+, W−, and Z bosons actually have relatively large masses of around 80 GeV/c2. The Higgs field resolves this conundrum. The simplest description of the mechanism adds a quantum field (the Higgs field) that permeates all space, to the Standard Model. Below some extremely high temperature, the field causes spontaneous symmetry breaking during interactions. The breaking of symmetry triggers the Higgs mechanism, causing the bosons it interacts with to have mass. In the Standard Model, the phrase "Higgs mechanism" refers specifically to the generation of masses for the W±, and Z weak gauge bosons through electroweak symmetry breaking. The mechanism also gives the masses to the elementary particles.

The measured by the LHC Higgs boson is the excitation of the Higgs field, the same as an electron is an excitation of the electron field, and a measured Z an excitation of the Z field. The Higgs boson is a particle with a specific mass that it also gets from the higgs field. At those high energies before symmetry breaking it would not exist because its mass is also an effect of the symmetry breaking. Only the higgs field would exist.

Please note that the higgs mechanism and the field ( not the boson) are responsible for the masses in the elementary particles table. All other measured masses like the proton and neutron , atoms and molecules, come from the relativistic invariant mass of the constituents (quarks, gluons etc).


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