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Q & A: Higgs and relativity

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Most recent answer: 04/07/2013
Q:
I've got a bit of an idiotic question but I can't find the answer for it and was wondering if someone could help me out. I've done some reading on the Higgs Boson/Field and think I'm understanding it, but I'm not sure. What affect does the Higgs Field have, if any, on the speed of light/why particles can't move at/faster than 3X10^8 m/s? My friend and I just theorized that the Higgs field is responsible for the mass that a particle gains at it approaches c, as well as inertia, and that at c the mass gain is infinite and thus the energy required to go faster is infinite, but as I said my knowledge is minimal here (1 year of AP Physics) so we're likely wrong. Can someone help me out please??
- Carl (age 16)
Bristow,VA, USA
A:
The speed limit c is built deeply into the structure of spacetime described by relativity. It was there before the Higgs field gave rest-masses to many particles and continues to be there for those particles (e.g. photons) that still have no rest-masses.

For those particles that do have a rest-mass (whether from Higgs or from some other mechanism), you're right that it would require infinite energy to reach speed c in any reference frame.

Mike W.

(published on 04/07/2013)

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