Ask Ethan: If Einstein Is Right And E = mc², Where Does Mass Get Its Energy From?
“My question is, in the equation E = mc², where does the energy in the "m” come from?“
It’s still hard, more than 100 years after Einstein demonstrated its truth, to wrap our heads around the idea that energy and mass are equivalent. There are many forms of energy that can all be converted into one another, and mass is just another one of them. You can create particles with mass if you have enough available energy, and if you set up the right conditions to destroy mass, such as in a nuclear reaction or an antimatter annihilation, you can turn mass back into pure energy.
But what about the question of where that energy responsible for creating the “m” of rest mass comes from? It might be a tempting answer to assume that it’s the Higgs, since we all heard last decade about how the Higgs gives mass to the Universe. But for the matter we know of, predominantly made of protons, neutrons, and electrons, the Higgs is responsible only for about 1% of the mass in the Universe.