On the Heuristics of the Higgs Mechanism

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Journal for General Philosophy of Science, ISSN: 0925-4560, Vol: 45, Issue: 2, Page: 351-367

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Rivat, Sébastien
Springer Nature; Springer
Arts and Humanities; Social Sciences
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article description
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.