I have some difficulty considering the relative size of each and the meaning behind the shape of Higgs boson. I ask relating to the structures of both the Higgs field and quarks. How is it that the structure of a Higgs boson flows into that of, for instance, a bottom-antibottom quark pair?

Essentially I am asking (or at least think I am asking): If the interactions for the field to exist occurred at some point in the universe's past, the particle is expressing it's shape in relation to the field, etc, etc.. Does this mean {when viewing some of the type of symmetries seen in readouts of the possible Higgs boson decay} quarks themselves are further expressions of the same field's shape or instead some manner of deformation?

Now well known shape of a Higgs Boson, computer generated from Wikipedia

This now fairly well known image from Wikipedia is a computer generated Higgs boson demonstrating simulated decay trajectories. This has often given me some considerations and can hopefully serve to slightly illustrate the structures I'm inquiring. (Knowing this is neither the boson or the quarks themselves)

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    $\begingroup$ In quantum field theory, you have fields, and then particles are excitations of the field. Quarks get their mass from their interaction with the Higgs field, even when there are no Higgs bosons around, through a sort of frictionless drag induced by the energy in the field. The Higgs boson is an excitation of the Higgs field which has nothing to do with producing mass in quarks, but which does tell us something about the properties of the field... Hopefully there will be a proper answer explaining this. $\endgroup$ Sep 16, 2012 at 9:09
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    $\begingroup$ BTW: The figure is an event display from a simulated event in a particular detector (CMS, I think), it is highly abstracted from the vertex physics. Nothing you see there represents anything about the "shape" of a particle: you are only seeing outlines of detector elements and connect-the-dots representations of particle tracks. It is very common for particle physicists to elide such niceties because everyone in the room is aware of them, but I think that we should be a least a little clear in talking to the public. $\endgroup$ Sep 17, 2012 at 2:03
  • $\begingroup$ @dmckee Thanks for putting the confusion fully to rest. I'm at lest partly aware these are only readings of other particles shooting out of the reactions, not the particles themselves. Only (I think by conjecture) aren't the trajectories and charges observed used to verify or find underlying field shapes? $\endgroup$ Sep 17, 2012 at 2:24
  • $\begingroup$ @dmckee Also, can you direct me to anything which does represent anything about the "shape" of particles and vertex physics? (now googling..) $\endgroup$ Sep 17, 2012 at 2:33
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    $\begingroup$ Just wondering about downvotes, I'm simply trying to get an understanding of this. Please help edit the question if you find any inconsistencies or erroneous concepts. $\endgroup$ Sep 17, 2012 at 4:24

1 Answer 1


I will try to address your question, though, as David says in the comments, it is evident that you have very little background in elementary particle physics. I will bring over an event much simpler than a display of an event that could show a Higgs particle decay.

Here is a simple antiproton annihilation event whose end particles are recorded by their passage through a bubble chamber which also has a magnetic field perpendicular to the picture. The antiproton enters from below and hits a proton which is at rest, so not visible, in the bubble chamber liquid. It annihilates and eight pions come out, their momentum measured by the curvature, their mass by the ionisation track.

enter image description here

Where is the Higgs field in this picture? It permeates everything and at the point of interaction when the pions materialize it has supplied the masses to the quarks and antiquarks that they are made up of.

The simulated Higgs event display you have attached shows the decay products of the Higgs Boson. This particle is predicted by the Standard Model and it is necessary to find and confirm it in order to validate the SM. It appears because a Higgs field exists, but it is a particle in the data set of particles predicted and mostly found by the SM. In the real experiment, a number of events

enter image description here

with two photons, for example, have been accumulated so that the claim of seeing a Higgs like particle has been established statistically.

enter image description here

A lot of work remains to make sure that the bump seen has really the decay branching ratios and spin and statistics expected from the SM before the discovery of the Higgs boson is established unequivocally. Then we could state with some certainty that the Standard Model which depends on the existence of a Higgs field is validated.

So it should be clear that each individual event is not like a spider that can be dissected. It is an instant of the materialization of the fields and the experiment has to accumulate enough events to statistically establish an observation that validates a hypothesis.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your words here. This gives me some needed perspective, and yes I am certainly not well versed in elementary particle physics, only a computer scientist pursuing some comprehension here. I also somewhat understand the sheer volume of readings needed to confirm the existence of a Higgs. Still I am a bit confused, is it not true the Higgs field is not just some uniform x,y,z grid of the whole universe, but with well defined base-charge holding curvature giving mass in a discreet way? I wish my vocabulary and concepts in this area were greater. $\endgroup$ Sep 17, 2012 at 8:05
  • $\begingroup$ @GaretClaborn: It's not that much--- the Higgs is a relativistically invariant superconductor filling space (this is not a simplification nor is it much of an analogy, it's a direct 1-1 correspondence of the physical ideas), a superconductor is a charged superfluid. The issue is that if you don't know quantum mechanics, everything is mysterious. I would suggest reading a book on quantum mechanics, the standard ones, plus Dirac's "The Principles of Quantum Mechanics". Then learn path-integration, then the rest of standard particle physics is straightforward. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Maimon
    Sep 17, 2012 at 8:13
  • $\begingroup$ A field is not a grid, it is continuous, and manifests wherever there is enough energy for matter to appear. Since you have a science background you might be able to explore the teaching resources of CERN education.web.cern.ch/education/Chapter2/Intro.html on the left are links to a lot of simple lectures. $\endgroup$
    – anna v
    Sep 17, 2012 at 8:14
  • $\begingroup$ @annav Right right, I was being oversimplistic, really I think more along the lines of manifolds, somewhat understand the difference in fields. Thanks very much, will be looking into this. $\endgroup$ Sep 17, 2012 at 8:28

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