This is the Australian Science Media Centre’s attempt to portray the theoretical Higgs field and its effect on different elementary particles. Specifically, it explores the concept of why different particles have different masses.
The Higgs field is the theoretical ‘space’ that everything exists in. It is hypothesised that elementary particles acquire mass by interacting with the Higgs field and all particles are affected by the field differently.
In this animation the Higgs field is represented as a 3D space comprised of uniformly dispersed spheres (although the field is conceptually more like a viscous fluid). It shows the passage of different particles (the Photon, the Electron, and the Top Quark) across two spaces: one where the theoretical Higgs field does not exist and one where it does exist.
Without the Higgs field, all elementary particles are considered to have zero mass and move at the speed of light. We know that a photon has no mass but additionally, that it isn’t possible for an electron to have no mass. In theory, it is the interaction that elementary particles have with the Higgs field that causes them to have mass. Some particles pass through the field unhindered whereas others are highly affected by the field. The stronger the interaction a particle has with the field, the greater the mass of that particle.
Please credit the Australian Science Media Centre if you use this animation.