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← The Hunting of the Higgs: what is it and why does it matter?

Steve Zara's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by Steve Zara

It's a good article, but there is this one thing mention that confused me for years:

Why particles transmit forces is like thinking of playing catch. If I throw a ball to you and you catch it, then you will be pushed backwards by the force of my ball, and I will by pushed backward by the act of throwing the ball.. Thus we act like we repel each other in this case.

I understand the need to simplify things, but It's not really like that. It can't be, otherwise how could anything ever attract? If you and I throw a ball back and forth, we aren't even going to be pulled together.

A better way to think of what is happening is that it's not a ball that is being thrown, but a note on a bit of paper: a message. A message about change. It could be a message that says "change momentum", or it could be a message that says "change charge". It's not the receiving of the message that changes things, like the catching of a ball, but the content of the message. It's rather like receiving a bank note. The worth of the note is not its weight, but what it says.

Tue, 13 Dec 2011 10:01:11 UTC | #898533