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If The Higgs boson and field ceased to exist (starting now), then would particles zip around at the speed of light, or would they gain mass from $E=mc^2$?

Or would something else happen?

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If the Higgs Boson somehow stopped existing, leptons like the electron, and the gauge bosons of electroweak theory would lose their mass. As $m = 0$ for these particles they would have no energy from $E = mc^2$. In addition, electroweak symmetry would be restored, so there would no longer be a separate electromagnetic force and weak force.

Baryonic matter like protons and neutrons would be slightly different --- the individual quarks would lose their mass but protons would still be massive due to the strong nuclear force, as almost 99% of the mass of a proton comes from the its QCD binding energy.

This scenario is not so realistic, because as far as we are aware a field can't simply stop existing. However, a similar scenario of vacuum decay, where the Higgs expectation value spontaneously changes across a bubble expanding at the speed of light, is a topic of current research.

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  • $\begingroup$ Why is the separation of the electromagnetic force and the weak force dependent on the Higgs field? $\endgroup$ – TheEnvironmentalist Dec 19 '19 at 3:16
  • $\begingroup$ The terms in the Electroweak lagrangian that "mix" the weak isospin and hypercharge fields to form the electromagnetic and weak fields we observe are all in the kinetic part of the Higgs lagrangian --- without the Higgs there is no mixing. $\endgroup$ – DavidH Dec 19 '19 at 3:19

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