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CERN | Geneva | Switzerland

View Blog | Read Bio

No Higgs is good Higgs!

Much has been said about the Higgs boson, mostly how great it would be to find it. But what about if we do not find it? Could that be useful? In fact, yes, that’d be a great discovery.

Finding the Higgs or proving beyond any doubt that it does not exist, will be equally useful as Rolf Heuer, CERN Director General reminded the audience at the recent European Physics Society meeting. The first outcome would be immediately gratifying: job done! But excluding a Higgs boson, at least one of the kind predicted by the Standard Model, our current theoretical model, will put theorists on the right track. What we need is not the Higgs boson per se but understanding how it all works.

The Higgs boson is the simplest solution to the Brout–Englert–Higgs mechanism, a mathematical trick named after the three physicists who developed it. This is what we need to provide mass to all elementary particles such as the electrons, the quarks, and all the heavy bosons we have seen here at CERN and elsewhere, namely, the W and Z bosons. Without this mechanism, the current equations we have to describe elementary particles only produce massless particles. And we know these particles all have a mass, as witnessed countless times in our detectors.

The Brout–Englert–Higgs mechanism also solves another fundamental problem called “unitarity violation”. In simple words, unitarity means that the sum of all probabilities is equal to one. Imagine having marbles of three different colors in a bag. Say we have 20% red ones and 50% yellow ones. I do not need to tell you the remainder, the green marbles, account for 30%. We can all guess that. But if unitarity was violated in this case, the green marbles would account for something different from 30%. The sum of all probabilities would not be 100%. You’d think I was losing my marbles…

This is exactly what theorists know will happen with the sum of all the different ways a particle can decay. They will start being different from one once we look at higher energies. The Brout–Englert–Higgs mechanism stabilizes all that and brings back minimal sanity. Without it, we know all the equations we have to describe the world of elementary particles will cease to work.

This is precisely why theorists are so confident we are bound to find something new with the Large Hadron Collider or LHC. This new accelerator is powerful enough to bring us in the energy regime where we know the equations start failing. So new particles, linked to new layers of the theory we have not yet been able to explore, are bound to show up. They are needed to stabilize the current theoretical framework we have to describe nature. We know something is missing, we simply don’t quite know what this new something might be.

Many models already exist that would preserve unitarity and explain the origin of mass. It needs not be the Standard Model Higgs boson. This is just the simplest explanation. It could be something more complex, in the form of “Technicolor” or extra dimensions. There are many models out there; we simply need to be nudged in the right direction. What we will discover with our detectors will reveal which model is the right one.

Finding the Higgs or not finding it will tell us which way to go.

— Pauline Gagnon

To be alerted of new postings, follow me on Twitter: @GagnonPauline

  • nobody

    Excellent synopsis 🙂

  • TechySafi

    “proving beyond any doubt that it does not exist” would theorists agree with this “proving beyond any doubt” term? wouldn’t many of em will push the line of beyond doubt again?

  • Pingback: No Higgs is good Higgs! [EN]()

  • Biku Toru

    How long will it be before we know/not know and you can make a sensible conclusion? Two month, two years, never?

  • Keith Martin

    This “mass of particles” is code for the weight of stuff.The connection that this stuff has with gravity will never be explained.How does all matter have weight?How can this connection to gravity be shorted out?Where does the connection go to and how is it connected? Don’t care and it’s a waste of time to stare at this singularity.With the tool, LHC and the tools of looking into the sky in what ever way we can is a waste of time. Come up with a way to cut the connection off.I thing we have the tools already with computers.Make a computer to speak in simpler terms.Not binary.One symbol…Make a computer to speak with one symbol.The simplest element as the symbol.

  • ckald

    Hi, I translated your post in russian for programmists and in-science-interested people of HabraHabr.ru


    I think, you should know 🙂

  • 어느쪽이든 멋진 결과를 기다리고 있습니다.

    Whatever, I am waiting good consequence.

  • David.

    What if the existence or otherwise is one of those things that cannot be proven empirically?

  • NoHiggs

    I beg to disagree. “Not finding a Higgs” could simply mean that there is a Higgs but its couplings are not those expected in the Standard Model (or many of its extensions) so that it
    cannot be produced or detected. If that is the case, the LHC will not prove there is no Higgs, and progress would be extremely difficult. So it would be better to say “non-standard Higgs is even better than the SM one”.

  • Curmudgeon6969

    Translation: As Physicists, it is our duty to make this stuff up and then prove that we are right or wrong: it ensures job security and the hoi polloi don’t know any better so they just keep funding our research believing that we know what we are talking about !!!!

  • “f(Higgs)”

    (“figs” – denoting a function representing the intellectual “distance” the human species has covered since Adam and Eve, and that famous fig leaf)

    Whether it be among things in the categories of “littles” or “bigs,”
    Very soon, now, we’re going to find the elusive Higgs.
    Perhaps in a construct containing an extra dimension,
    Or maybe, simply via some parametrized extension.
    So quickly it’s there, and then it is not,
    As equations en masse seem to contemplate something they forgot.

    Never before has so much data been caressed
    To decide the existence of something once guessed.
    For those with the passion to solve “What does it mean?”
    All men and their resources had to create a massive machine.
    In our visible universe, some once posed “To be, or not to be?”
    As we more recently determined, it just takes a few more T-e-v.

    When confirmed, and all the results are finally in
    This fleeting entity will produce quite a din,
    As physicists all join in singing the praises of their queries
    In narrowing their lists of Grand Unified Theories.

  • Pauline Gagnon

    Hello Biku,

    you asked how long it will take to know for sure if there is a Higgs or not. At the rate data is coming in, we should have that final answer within a year for the Standard Model Higgs. But if it is there, early signs will be seen before that.

    Physicists have been looking for the Higgs boson for two decades. The LHC is taking us forward with giant’s steps!

  • Dear Pauline, thank you for your kind reply to my statement and offer however, you appear to have either missed or have purposely refused to acknowledge the profundity of the various points I was endeavouring to convey, one of the most important of which is that, if I am correct in what I have claimed within my various theses on Creation, CERN is obsolete.

    By explaining the very reason for and the basis of Creation, I have provided solutions for all of the unanswered questions those employed at CERN have been endeavouring to address. Not only have I shown within the format of my work that our universe was in situ long before the ‘BANG’ took place, but know how all the Matter that made the bang came into existence. I have even described what gravity is and how it works. I have explained what the so-called ‘Dark Matter/Energy’ is. I have explained what galaxies are and how they work; even to the point of describing how time travel is possible – (but not very feasible). In fact, within my various theories on Creation, I have explained the reason for ‘EVERYTHING’!

  • Andy S

    I’ll probably be lampooned for this, but what the heck. I’m a nobody…

    About 2 years ago, I made a prediction that the Higgs Boson would not be found. The reason stems from a model of an early universe I had been contemplating, and I deduced such a particle would not be necessary. It never meant it wasn’t there however, but, it wasn’t necessary. I can’t really explain mass or gravity with this hypothesis, but it does give one an entirely different way of looking at the universe. My goal was also never meant to create complex formula’s, so the idea is void of any mathematics, because it relied on a series of alternate perspectives of current observations. The idea was to redefine the basic understanding of how all this began, what the universe is doing mechanically, and where it’s headed. I was basically just trying to understand the overall possible mechanics of the universe. Considering we had nothing to start with, I felt the answer should be much simpler in terms of mechanics. This is basically a hypothesis based on deductive reason.

    The problem as I’ve seen it is a flaw in our reasoning. The idea of a big bang exploding outward just seemed a bit antiquated, although the observations do limit our imagination, because that’s exactly what appears to have happened. What if there was no real big bang though, but a state that would appear similar in nature?

    Before the big bang we had empty space. Considering we exist though, one could only deduce logically that empty space is highly improbable. If it did exist, that existence could only be defined in terms of a brief instance. If that’s the case, then a more likely alternative to a big bang scenario would be a fracture in space itself. This fracture would not be localized. It would span the entire volume of our known universe, instantaneously converting space to a plasma state. From that universal plasma state our entire universe would begin to cool and condense into a gas. From the gas state, we then begin to cool and condense into galaxies, stars, and planets.

    I see a possibility that our universe started more or less as a stagnant sea of plasma spanning the entire volume of the universe, with no outward motion what so ever. This big bang was instantaneous, because the fracture was uniform throughout every conceivable point in space. Space was basically a perfect solid for one brief instance, and then it shattered into a plasma.

    What would we be doing now without a centralized explosion to propel us outward? Although the galaxies may appear to be moving away by observation, there is an alternative hypothesis which could yield the exact same observation. I see the alternate option as a 50/50 chance for something different, because it’s never been contemplated, so it’s never been ruled out. We just assumed everything was moving outward because that’s what appears to happening, and never gave it a second thought. We saw the redshift, and the redshift was well defined. There was no reason to look any further, so we went off in a single direction in science, bent on understanding the big bang. I think it’s been a wild goose chase though.

    Science tends to look at all matter from a fixed point of reference. In a more simplistic explanation, all matter is similar to little ball bearings in the eyes of science. These little balls are pretty much viewed as static objects glued together by smaller pieces. The quest for the Higgs Boson was the final piece to the model, because it was the final binding particle that held everything together, and possessed the rest of the physics we haven’t understood, like gravity and mass. With no Higgs Boson though, we have a bunch of little balls stuck together through the known forces, and no explanation as to what they represent. Our little balls of matter are now hollow, which is exactly what I predicted would happen. I have to admit though, I stuck my neck out on that concept, because my hypothesis could still have a Higgs Boson in the center, but, it really wasn’t a necessary element. Nature generally doesn’t waste resources unnecessarily, so I deduced it wouldn’t be there ultimately. Even if it does exist though, I’m not sure it would be as interesting as it’s made out to be, because we’d be trying to break it open and see what’s inside that piece. There’s no end to cracking open the layers of a particle, but ultimately I felt that absolute nothingness would end up in the center of a given particle.

    My earliest thought on matter was that space and matter are reciprocals. In other words, matter is made of space, and space is made of matter. They are one in the same, but coexisting in different states. Space itself is a singular state of somethingness, and matter is a divided state of the exact same somethingness. When matter dissipates, it converts to the singularity of space, and when space dissipates, it converts to the divided state of matter. Neither state can exist without the other, because the two states are dependent on one another. If a balance between the two states was possible, we’d end up with nothing, because the two equalities would cancel each other out in perfect balance. Obviously we’re here, so balance is not achievable, and never has been. The universe is always moving towards an unachievable singular state, which keeps the universe in a perpetual state of motion. I realize we don’t like the word perpetual in terms of science, so each instance of a singular state fuels a divided state. It is similar to perpetual motion, but, our universe has a beginning and end, so it’s not really perpetual as we’ve defined in physics between those two points. Perpetual motion is not possible exactly as science has stated. So, we have a repetitive big bang type of state, for a lack of a better definition. It’s not really a big bang per say though, so I don’t want to confuse anyone. It’s a shattered singular state.

    Essentially what I’m saying is that the universe hasn’t done much of anything over the past 14 billion years. The entire universe for one brief instance was a virtual solid, which fractured into a plasma. We have been literally condensing for about 14 billion years, and will continue to condense until all the matter in the universe no longer exists. But that matter or mass doesn’t simply disappear, it converts back to space. Matter itself is shrinking in size on a uniform scale universally, and as it dissipates, it converts back to space, adding distance between galaxies. Although the observed distance between galaxies looks like expansion, and could be called expansion, it’s really not expanding outward as we’d understand from an earthly explosion. We’re getting smaller, and space is getting bigger. Matter is in a perpetual state of collapse, with no bottom limit in the scale of size, and space is getting bigger with no upper limit in size. Space and matter move towards infinity in opposite directions. Space is the infinite vastness around us, and matter is the infinite smallness within us. We more or less exist between to impossible points of infinity.

    Although impossible in our sense of reality, infinity is really a 3-dimensional line running inward and outward. We exist as a point within that line. Physical matter moves proportionately inwards along that line, and space moves proportionately outwards along that line. From our perspective of mass, we see expansion, but if you were to step completely outside the universe and look back from a fixed perspective, you’d see matter contracting. In theory, our entire universe could be shrinking in size, and probably is in my opinion, but from our perspective of a state of matter, our universe appears to be expanding.

    You’d still observe a redshift, and it would also explain the concept of dark energy, which is really a byproduct of condensing mass, not the physical expansion of our universe. Sure, our universe is growing, sort of, but only because we’re getting smaller. Our measuring sticks also get smaller, so even scale becomes a relative perspective, as motion is a relative perspective. The hypothesis is kind of like the theory of relativity on steroids, where your entire perspective of the universe is based more on relative size than relative velocity.

  • Peter Pedro

    Maybe mass is the lack of something?

  • Andy

    Peter, I see that as a very good question.

    Although I wouldn’t want to be mistaken for the brilliant minds working on the problem, as I am a simple lay person, I think the answer may lie in a fundamental flaw in our approach.

    A lack of something may be the answer.

    In accounting, 1-1=0 holds true, but in science, 1-1=0 is really false, because 0 is an imaginary or infinite state.

    It may be that;

    (+A)+(-A) = +-A (neutral)


    (+A)+(-A) = +-A*2 (neutral)


    (+A)+(-A) = +-1 (neutral)

    I’m not exactly sure how to look at it, but something seems wrong to me at a very basic level of understanding. Math never began with science, it began with commerce. Although $0 dollars is a fairly easy concept to grasp, 0 anything in science is not. Then again, what do I know?

  • Andy

    One last statement I’d like to make in regards to my first post;

    For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

    If we observe expansion outward in one direction, then it would stand to reason that we would have to have contraction in the opposite direction inwards, according to the laws of physics.

  • anon

    Re: “The Higgs boson is the simplest solution to the Brout–Englert–Higgs mechanism, a mathematical trick named after the three physicists who developed it.”


  • Tulip

    I.E. God did it, right?