No! We are NOT made up of Higgs Bosons

Higgs Boson is one of the most talked-about scientific discoveries. As with any popular idea, it got misinterpreted, misunderstood, manipulated, and even abused! 

A part of the reason is the analogies physicists used to simplify complex mathematical equations into a lucid story. As with any analogy, it breaks under pressure because they are not precise and everything about the analogy is not literally correct. 

People who use the Higgs Boson phenomenon to dress-up their woo-woo theories in scientific terms is the other and primary cause for abuse of its concept.

For instance, the famous abuse of the Higgs Boson is to take its nickname "God particle" literally and say that "Physics now has proven the existence of the God". No! It doesn't prove god. God particle is the short form of Higgs Boson's nickname "goddamn particle". It was called "goddamn particle" out of frustration because at the time it was coined, scientists were working hard to find it for nearly 40 years without success. Journalists turned goddamn particle (original name of a book by Nobel Laureate Lederman) into god particle (name of the published version of the book).

The other abuse is to say that Higgs Field is all-pervading and hence it is the "God". Other variations of this abuse include - there is a mention of an all-pervading entity that's the cause for the reality in old scriptures and holy books. Since Higgs Field is all-pervading and it gives mass to objects, which is necessary for their existence, the discovery of Higgs Field validates holy books.

Just in case if you are wondering if these interpretations are true, the one word answer is "No". The one sentence answer is "It is a pure concocted nonsense." These guys don't even understand the concept of Higgs Mechanism properly. They are just playing with words. It is a popular trick used by sophisticated English speaking con-men to dress up their woo-woo in scientific terms, so that it appeals to an average educated person, fooling such people to think that the woo-woo of the con-men is scientific.

In this post, we deal with a different misinterpretation of Higgs Boson, different from the above two. It is as follows:

Higgs Boson is popularly described as "giving mass" to the object. This makes people form a mental picture where every object is partly made up of "Higgs Bosons", that are the cause for the mass of the objects. An extension of this reasoning is that, if you remove the Higgs Boson from an object, its mass should decrease.

This is a genuine and legitimate question that's bound to arise given the popular description of Higgs Boson as a particle giving mass to objects. It's not the typical woo-woo kind although some woo-woo guys have caught onto this interpretation and are giving a scientific dressing to their woo-woo.

Someone on Quora asked the following question

My answer is below


You can’t remove “God particle” from anything because the matter is “NOT” made up of God particles.

I understand where you are coming from because it is often not reported clearly in media. Since the labelling god particle (short form of its nickname goddamn particle) is misleading, I would call it by its original name “Higgs Boson” from now on.

It’s like this.

The basic question is - how do fundamental particles like an electron, quarks get mass? The hypothesis was that there exists a field called “Higgs Field” pervading all the space. When fundamental particles like electrons, quarks travel through this field (technical word is “interact”), they face resistance. We interpret this resistance as the “mass”.

The popular science description of this is - Imagine that you are swimming in a waterbody full of weeds and mollases, you would experience more resistance than usual. Resistance faced by fundamental particles while travelling (interacting) in Higgs field is similar to this.

All good and fine till now. Where does Higgs Boson come into picture then?

Higgs Boson comes into the picture because it helps us experimentally verify the presence of Higgs Field. And how exactly does Higgs Boson confirm Higgs Field? For this, we need to understand the basic idea of Quantum Field Theory (QFT).

As per QFT, particles are vibrations (excitation) of particle fields. It means that, for example, in the case of an electron, there exists an electron field all through space, everywhere. An electron is a localized vibration (excitation) of this "all-pervading electron field”.

Extending this logic, we have a particle for every field, which is a localized vibration (excitation) of that field. A localized vibration (excitation) of the electromagnetic field is a photon. A vibration (excitation) of the quark field is quark and so on.

(Does it mean the vibration of gravitational field also has a particle associated with it? Well, that’s the subject of research currently. We are hoping to find a “graviton”)

With this knowledge, let us slightly modify what we said earlier - “electrons face resistance when they travel through Higgs field”. As we discussed, since an electron is an excited state of “electron field”, we describe the mass-acquiring process, as an “interaction or coupling” between “electron field” and “Higgs field”.

Now, let us come to come to experimentally verifying the Higgs field. Applying the same idea as above, if there is a Higgs field, there should be a particle (excited state) corresponding to the localized vibration (excitation) of the Higgs field. We named this localized excitation of the Higgs field as the Higgs Boson, after the scientist Higgs who proposed it. It’s called Boson because it falls under the category of Bosons.

In other words, the presence of Higgs Boson is an experimental test to the presence of Higgs field. The process of verifying the Higgs Field hence involves creating that ripple in "Higgs Field" to produces an excitation, which we call as "Higgs Boson".

Let’s come to your question - What happens if we remove Higgs Bosons from an object?

We can’t remove Higgs Bosons from an object, because objects are not made of Higgs Bosons. Objects are made up of fundamental particles like quarks and electrons. These fundamental particles  (excitations of particle-fields) get mass when they "interact" with the Higgs Field. That’s it. No Higgs Bosons in any object.

Higgs Bosons appear only if you disturb the Higgs Field, which requires a lot of energy, like the one produced in LHC. In fact, the Higgs Boson is highly unstable and decays quickly.