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Tuesday, 14 April 2015

What Is the Higgs? - Interactive Graphic - NYTimes.com

What Is the Higgs? - Interactive Graphic - NYTimes.com:



'via Blog this'



Two physicists, François Englert and Peter Higgs, won the Nobel Prize on Tuesday for their theory explaining how particles acquire mass. Related Article »

What Is the Higgs?

Drawings by Nigel Holmes
What is the Higgs field?
It’s difficult to visualize,
so many people resort to metaphor.
It has been described as a kind of cosmic molasses,
It has been described as a kind of cosmic molasses, dragging on particles as they move through it.
But we’ll use a field of snow.
A skier meets little resistance, and glides easily across the snow field.
A woman shuffles by on snowshoes, and is slowed by the snow.
And a man in heavy boots plods along, slowed at every step,
while a bird flies over, untouched.
The Higgs field is like our field of snow.
But instead of countless snowflakes, the field is made up of Higgs bosons.
Particles that interact
with the Higgs field have mass.
Like the skier,
electrons barely interact with the field.
They have very little mass.
Like the snowshoer, the quarks that make up protons and neutrons interact more strongly with the field.
They have a bit more mass.
W and Z bosons plod through the Higgs field like people in heavy boots.
They have thousands of times more mass.
Photons and gluons don’t interact with the field at all.
They are massless.
Fifty years ago, physicists had no idea why some particles had mass, and other particles didn’t.
So they thought up the Higgs, and have been searching for it ever since.
An elusive, missing snowflake in our theory of falling snow.

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