TL;DR – Matter is seen as a result of energy field interactions in the Universe and in order to get rid of it, fields need to stop existing first.
If someone would ask you to describe matter, you’d probably say that anything which occupies space and has some volume is called matter.
But what if you were asked to define mass? Well, the most general answer found in every school’s textbook is that mass is the matter contained in an object.
It’s funny how we describe mass as ‘matter’ and matter as ‘something’. Ever wondered what actually that ‘something’ is?
Higgs Boson: The Internet’s Darling
There are a lot of fields swarming around us. Every particle we know so far has its own field. So we have both types of particles: with mass (electrons etc.) and without mass (photons etc.).
If you know how relative velocity works and how friction plays its role, you might get a hang of it. See, every field exists even when we cannot feel its presence. That’s because whenever we experience a field, we are actually interacting with its respective particle which is nothing but an excitation or concentrated energy in that field.
From the recent observations, we know that the Higgs Field is never null, it is always excited with a positive value. So it exists everywhere and always has its effect on everything.
To know how things get their mass, we need to understand:
How Fields Interact
One field can penetrate and interact with the other with the help of its excitation. Basically, their respective excitations are their means of communication. Ever noticed why atoms weigh more than the masses of their subatomic particles combined? That’s because not all the energy is coming from the particles that we notice in there: the protons, neutrons and the electrons.
Coming back to our concept of relative velocity, whenever a particle passes through another field, it experiences a sort of a drag (like friction) in its way. This slowing down in its speed is what the particle perceives as mass. The original speed would have, otherwise, been the speed of light of the particle that now has a mass. And more specifically, a rest mass (because we can measure it). But we know that particles like photons have no rest mass and they travel at the speed of light. That’s probably because they don’t feel any drag from other fields. And we can’t measure their mass at such a high speed of light.
Virtual and Real Particles
Virtual particles are the excitations in the fields which we can’t notice because they interact with each other very swiftly to give rise to noticeable dense excitations called real particles. Thus, the real particles are actually the best approximations of all the possible virtual states of that particle. And we usually measure the mass of the real particle. This doesn’t mean that the virtual particles don’t contribute to the actual overall mass of any system. A real particle still spends some time in its virtual states (for a very very short time though). So, we can measure the approximated effect of these virtual particles time-to-time as an additional mass.
The Quantum Vacuum
The Quantum Vacuum is the most stable state or maybe the ground state of the Universe. It is the place where virtual particles are in action, appearing and disappearing in fractions of fractions of seconds. The Quantum Vacuum is what gives rise to the real particles with the most stable and long approximations of its virtual particles. The Quantum Vacuum has still some measurable energy due to the existence of Quantum Vacuum Fluctuations. In order to get rid of all the energy and matter, we need to clear up the fields in the Quantum Vacuum which is ultimately next to impossible.