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The NY Times article on Firewalls today has the following paragraph:

Quantum field theory is how the world works [quoting a physicist]. It had a major triumph just a year ago, when the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle responsible for the mass of other subatomic particles, was discovered after a 40-year search, at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

Is it correct that

  1. the Higgs (boson, mechanism, field, etc) is needed for QFT per se, or

  2. is it "just" needed for the particular application of QFT known as the standard model, electroweak theory etc?

Couldn't QFT still be the correct framework for "how the world works" if the Higgs model turned out to be wrong?

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    $\begingroup$ Short answers. 1. no, 2. yes, "Couldn't QFT still be the correct framework for "how the world works" if the Higgs model turned out to be wrong?": yes. The Higgs mechanism is necessary for, but more general than, the standard model, and quantum field theory is even more general still. $\endgroup$ – Michael Brown Aug 13 '13 at 15:02
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Someone more knowledgable than me could give a more detailed answer, but basically the Standard model is based up Yang-Mills theory. The problem is that any non-zero particle mass breaks the gauge invariance, and for the theory to work the particle masses must all be zero and the mass acquired at low energy by some mechanism like the Higgs mechanism.

So the Higgs is not required for a quantum field theory, but it is required for a quantum field theory that matches experiment.

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