I have read a lot on Higgs bosons, yet I do not fully comprehend how they are created and how they are "flicked off" the Higgs field. I have also had trouble comprehending why a Higgs boson quickly becomes unstable and decays into more common particles.

How is a Higgs boson created and how and why does it quickly decay?


1 Answer 1


A higgs boson is created at an accelerator just like any other particle, by converting energy to mass, according to the famous equation

$$E = mc^2$$

If you take the LHC as example, then protons are accelerated to nearly light speed, having enough energy to create particles as heavy as the higgs.

For a particle to decay it needs phase-space (i.e. the particles that the parent particle decays to need to be lighter than the parent particle) and no conserved quantities that would forbid a decay (e.g. charge conservation).

Since the higgs is heavy and has no quantum number that would forbid a decay, it has a very short lifetime.

  • $\begingroup$ The higgs can, however, decay to intermediate, off-shell heavier particles, e.g. WW or ZZ, with appreciable branching ratios. The ZZ to 4 leptons is an important decay channel. $\endgroup$
    – innisfree
    Dec 13, 2013 at 16:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ They are off the mass shell, i.e. they are not heavier. $\endgroup$
    – pfnuesel
    Dec 13, 2013 at 16:33
  • $\begingroup$ Yes of course, maybe my comment was trivial! $\endgroup$
    – innisfree
    Dec 13, 2013 at 19:12

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