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Question
Hi,

I read that most part of the atom is empty. Currently, if we combine all the sub-atomic particle masses, are we getting the mass of the atom or are there any missing mass? Does space contributes to mass as well? Can you please explain in simple terms briefly how higgs boson contributes to mass?

Answer
It's not really empty.  The atom is full of the wavefunction of particles that make it up, mostly of electrons.  If we combine the parts of an atom, we have to account for the binding energy in the total mass (E=mc^2).  It works fantastically well.  Space is filled with the Higgs field, like electric fields.  It extends through all space, and interacts with massive particles to give them mass.  Like electric fields, the Higgs field is exchanged in lumps (particles) with a boson-like nature (integer spin).  That's really about it, imagine it in terms of a field like one that you experience and understand like the electric field.  

Truly understanding the Higgs boson involves a deeper understanding of quantum mechanics and a lot of information beyond the scope of this forum.  That's where I would start, however, studying quantum mechanics.

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Dr. Stephen O. Nelson

Expertise

I can answer most basic physics questions, physics questions about science fiction and everyday observations of physics, etc. I'm also usually good for science fair advice (I'm the regional science fair director). I do not answer homework problems. I will occasionally point out where a homework solution went wrong, though. I'm usually good at explaining odd observations that seem counterintuitive, energy science, nuclear physics, nuclear astrophysics, and alternative theories of physics are my specialties.

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I was a physics professor at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, research in nuclear technology and nuclear astrophysics. My travelling science show saw over 20,000 students of all ages. I taught physics, nuclear chemistry, radiation safety, vacuum technology, and answer tons of questions as I tour schools encouraging students to consider careers in science. I moved on to a non-academic job with more research just recently.

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Ph. D. from Duke University in physics, research in nuclear astrophysics reactions, gamma-ray astronomy technology, and advanced nuclear reactors.

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