Origins of mass:
It's not what you think
| The origin of mass in the universe has been worked out. Luckily it's not just the much-maligned donut.
If you have even the faintest interest in particle physics, you've heard about the Higgs boson. The Higgs boson is the leading candidate explanation for the origin of the masses of point-like subatomic particles. By extension, the Higgs boson is the origin of mass in the universe, right? There's only one problem with that statement--it's totally wrong.
To clarify, I'm now talking only about ordinary matter. Ordinary matter is the kind that makes up everything familiar to you: you, your mom, the Earth, the stars that seem to twinkle so gently in the clear night sky, but are actually raging thermonuclear furnaces… everything. I'm explicitly not talking about dark matter, which is necessary to explain some astronomical mysteries, but it is totally irrelevant in your day-to-day life.
Ordinary matter is made of atoms. Atoms are made of protons, neutrons and electrons. The protons and neutrons sit in a nucleus, which resides in the center of atoms. Electrons swirl around the nucleus, on the periphery, like a little solar system. Protons and neutrons have about the same mass, so we won't distinguish between them. We'll refer to them by the generic term nucleon, as they are found in the nucleus of the atom. So, if matter is made of atoms, where is the mass located in atoms?
The electrons are extremely light. One nucleon weighs as much as 2,000 electrons. For all practical purposes, the mass of atoms is located in the nucleons.
It is commonly said that nucleons are made of three quarks, which is true to a point. It is logical to think that each quark has one third the mass of the nucleon, but that's not actually true.
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