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On the heuristics of the Higgs mechanism

Rivat, Sébastien (2014) On the heuristics of the Higgs mechanism. Journal for General Philosophy of Science. ISSN 0925-4560

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This article has two aims. First, I undertake an extensive review of the Higgs mechanism and its connections with spontaneous symmetry breaking and the Goldstone theorem. I take the opportunity to expound and discuss a certain number of philosophical issues, amongst them surplus structure and redundancies. Second, I offer a defence of the metaphor according to which 'gauge fields eat Goldstone bosons to gain a mass’ as sensible rather than merely misleading. It is sensible because there is a direct physical correspondence between the longitudinal polarization of massive gauge fields and Goldstone bosons, which is not merely set by a gauge-fixing procedure. In these terms, I wish to argue that the mechanism which allows for the discovery of the Higgs boson has more than merely heuristic and methodological virtue.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Rivat, Sé
Keywords: Higgs mechanism, Goldstone bosons, Spontaneous symmetry breaking, Gauge theories, Quantum field theories, Realism
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Field Theory
Depositing User: Sébastien Rivat
Date Deposited: 28 Aug 2014 05:06
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2014 05:06
Item ID: 10962
Journal or Publication Title: Journal for General Philosophy of Science
Publisher: Springer
Official URL:
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1007/s10838-014-9258-4
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Field Theory
Date: 2014
ISSN: 0925-4560

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