Higgs boson scientists win Nobel prize in physics

 

The Nobel committee decided Englert and Higgs should jointly take the accolade for the boson, discovered at Cern in 2012

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Two scientists have won the Nobel prize in physics for their work on the theory of the Higgs boson.

Peter Higgs, from the UK, and Francois Englert from Belgium, share the prize.

In the 1960s, they were among several physicists who proposed a mechanism to explain why the most basic building blocks of the Universe have mass.

The mechanism predicts a particle - the Higgs boson - which was finally discovered in 2012 at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at Cern, in Switzerland.

Start Quote

"I am overwhelmed to receive this award... I would also like to congratulate all those who have contributed to the discovery of this new particle”

End Quote Peter Higgs Emeritus professor of theoretical physics, University of Edinburgh

"This year's prize is about something small that makes all the difference," said Staffan Normark, permanent secretary of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

'On holiday'

Prof Higgs is renowned for shying away from the limelight, and he could not be located for interview in the immediate aftermath of the announcement.

"He's gone on holiday without a phone," his Edinburgh University physics colleague Alan Walker told the BBC, adding that Higgs had also been unwell.

"He is taking a break from all of this, taking some time to relax, because he knows when he comes back he'll have to face up to a media storm."

But the university released a prepared statement from Higgs, 84, who is an emeritus professor of theoretical physics:

"I am overwhelmed to receive this award and thank the Royal Swedish Academy," he said.

The BBC's David Shukman explains exactly what the Higgs boson is

"I would also like to congratulate all those who have contributed to the discovery of this new particle and to thank my family, friends and colleagues for their support.

"I hope this recognition of fundamental science will help raise awareness of the value of blue-sky research."

Francois Englert, 80, said he was "very happy" to win the award, speaking at the ceremony via phone link.

"At first I thought I didn't have [the prize] because I didn't see the announcement," he told the committee, after their news conference was delayed by more than an hour.

Higgs was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, but it was in Edinburgh in 1964 that he had his big idea - an explanation of why the matter in the Universe has substance, or mass.

His theory involved a missing particle in the Standard Model of physics, which has come to be known as the Higgs boson.

Start Quote

The discovery last year at Cern of a particle with the correct properties confirms [the Higgs] prediction and is a triumph for theory”

End Quote Prof Stephen Hawking

Within weeks, Francois Englert had independently published his own, similar theory, alongside his now deceased colleague Robert Brout.

Three other physicists - Gerald Guralnik, Tom Kibble and Carl Hagen - also made key contributions to the theory, and spoke at the announcement of the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012.

Hagen has long argued for the name of the particle to be changed, protesting at the "rock star" status in which Higgs is held.

And Higgs, too, has expressed his discomfort with the attention he has received, preferring to call the particle "the scalar boson".

In a statement on Tuesday, Kibble, of Imperial College London, said he was "glad" the Nobel prize had gone to the work of Higgs and Englert.

"My two collaborators, Gerald Guralnik and Carl Hagen, and I contributed to that discovery, but our paper was unquestionably the last of the three to be published.

"It is therefore no surprise that the Swedish Academy felt unable to include us, constrained as they are by a self-imposed rule that the prize cannot be shared by more than three people.

"My sincere congratulations go to the two prize winners, Francois Englert and Peter Higgs."

And the renowned physicist Prof Stephen Hawking added his praise: "In the early 60s, theorists were struggling to understand why particles have mass. Peter Higgs and Francois Englert proposed a mechanism called symmetry breaking. This mechanism also predicted a massive particle, the Higgs boson. The discovery last year at Cern of a particle with the correct properties confirms this prediction and is a triumph for theory."

Cern director general Rolf Heuer joins physicists celebrating the Nobel Prize announcement Cern director general Rolf Heuer joined physicists celebrating the announcement

Proving the theory correct took almost half a century and involved creating the biggest and most sophisticated machine humankind has ever built.

The LHC at Cern lies in a circular tunnel 27km (17 miles) round. It is so big it is partly in Switzerland, partly in France. It took 10 years and thousands of scientists and engineers to build it.

Cern director general Rolf Heuer said he was "thrilled" that this year's prize had gone to particle physics.

The man behind the boson - Peter Higgs talks to BBC Scotland

"The discovery of the Higgs boson at Cern... marks the culmination of decades of intellectual effort by many people around the world," he commented.

The Nobel prizes - which also cover chemistry, medicine, literature, peace and economics - are valued at 8m Swedish krona (£775,000; $1.2m). Laureates also receive a medal and a diploma.

The official citation for Englert and Higgs read: "For the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the Atlas and CMS experiments at Cern's Large Hadron Collider".

David Willetts, UK minister for universities and science, said the award was "an incredible endorsement of the quality of UK science".

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "This brilliant achievement is richly deserved recognition of Peter Higgs' lifetime of dedicated research and his passion for science.

"It is also a credit to the world-leading British universities in which this research was carried out.

"It took nearly 50 years and thousands of great minds to discover the Higgs boson after Prof Higgs proposed it, and he and all those people should be extremely proud."

Best explanation of Higgs boson?
Image shows room full of people Scientists' best theory for why different things have mass is the "Higgs field" - where mass can be seen as a measure of the resistance to movement. The "Higgs field" is shown here as a room of physicists chatting among themselves.
Room full of people, new scientist enters the room A well-known scientist walks into the room and causes a bit of a stir - attracting admirers with each step and interacting strongly with them - signing autographs and stopping to chat.
Crowd gathers round well-known scientist As she becomes surrounded by admiring fans, she finds it harder to move across the room - in this analogy, she acquires mass due to the "field" of fans, with each fan acting like a single Higgs boson.
Two crowds around different scientists, one big, one small If a less popular scientist enters the room, only a small crowd gathers, with no-one clamouring for attention. He finds it easier to move across the room - by analogy, his interaction with the bosons is lower, and so he has a lower mass.
 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 643.

    Thank you to Europe for building this amazing HLC. These projects are not a waste of money; they are a valuable source of knowledge to Humanity. However, what is a disappointment is how quickly was confirmed the Higgs Bosoms was found. Shouldn't t we get more solid evidence of what the findings were before rushing to such conclusions?
    Does anyone out there agree with me?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 642.

    636 Auf Widersehen Pet Returns

    "and the daylight apparently.

    Hence he spends much of his time in a tunnel 500ft underground."

    And the rest of the time in Edinburgh!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 641.

    629.
    Robin M

    So amusing the read the usual Luddites using electronics to make the same remarks based on ignorance and prejudice...
    +++
    Glad to entertain you, but I'd rather be enlightened by a scientist like Brian Cox who explains science without being snide and condescending about it. Don't mistake particularistic driven confusion or lack of scientific knowledge with ignorance however.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 640.

    "Within weeks, Francois Englert had independently published his own, similar theory, alongside his now deceased colleague Robert Brout."

    With all due respect - but credit where credit is due: to the best of my knowledge, Englert and Brout were the first.
    I have immense respect for Mister Higgins, he certainly deserves the shared Nobel prize but I am sure he would not like this misrepresentation

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 639.

    @634 [ priti ] -

    "All this talk about Higgs Boson - There is no mention of Satyandranath Bose - the one who came up with this theory"

    Ermm... see that second word in the term "Higgs Boson" ?

    "The clue is in the name" : )

    Satyendra's contribution was immense, and he is honoured whenever we mention bosons, or the Bose-Einstein condensate.

    But he did not formulate the theory of the Higgs Boson.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 638.

    To the people on here talking about S. Bose all the time - do you know anything about physics? Bosons are a class of particle, a class which includes photons and many atoms. Higgs proposed a new particle that is within this class. Your complaints are akin to arguing that if a new atomic species were discovered then news articles should talk about those that proposed the atomic hypothesis.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 637.

    The Nobel prize really has gone downhill.

    Imagine giving it to some guy just because he has the same name as a scalar carrier-particle for mass!

    Heh... Edinburgh is proud of you Peter - we've come a long way since some guy (at CERN!) was rejecting your Higgs Mechanism paper in the mid-60s.

    "Of no obvious relevance to physics" - wasn't that the phrase?

    Just goes to show, eh? : )

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 636.

    "Prof Higgs is renowned for shying away from the limelight,"

    ++++

    and the daylight apparently.

    Hence he spends much of his time in a tunnel 500ft underground.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 635.

    Atlantis-knowledge-culture-flying machines :-) abused power ect now a myth. How soon do we become part of an old wives tale.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 634.

    All this talk about Higgs Boson- There is no mention of Satyandranath Bose - the one who came up with this theory and it was even endorsed by Einstein. It is amazing how others take credit for things done by Indians again.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 633.

    The LHC at Cern lies in a circular tunnel 27km (17 miles) round. It is so big it is partly in Switzerland, partly in France.

    ++++

    Oh please, surely Switzerland is not THAT small.

    There must be another reason it lies under two countries.

    The majority of it is actually under France.

    There are just two small sections under Switzerland sufficient to claim significant tax advantages

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 632.

    I wish they would tell us what it is, and what you are going to do with it. Has it got any use. Some people don't know what the blazes you are talking about. It is beyond most people.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 631.

    The laureate scientists when they recieve the prize should publicly remember Satyendra Nath Bose who is the man behind the word BOSEN, in developing the possibility for this discovery with Eistein. Paying homage to this Indian scientist will only dignify them. António Bernardo Colaço

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 630.

    Higgs was born in Newcastle upon Tyne

    ++++

    Bold went they forth
    From that school of the north
    That mother and maker of men
    Fortiter Defendit Triumphans

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 629.

    So amusing the read the usual Luddites using electronics to make the same remarks based on ignorance and prejudice that the Luddites made after the discovery of the electron.

    In a nutshell, it's about mass and mass multiplied by the square of the speed of light = energy. Small amount of mass = large amount of energy. Understand mass and energy follows. We all refuse to give up energy.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 628.

    This is like the story of "The Emperor's New Clothes." Higgs boson does not exist. Remember, the Higgs mechanism was just a theory and it was supposed to be an answer on why bosons such as W and Z have mass. We'll, the Higgs mechanism theory is wrong.

    Mass (m) is an inherent property of a moving (c) energy particle (E)-m=E/c^2. That's from Einstein's formula, E=mc^2. This is a very great mistake.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 627.

    That's all very well! But I bet they couldn't put a Rowntrees Fruit Pastel in their mouth without chewing it!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 626.

    GMV (Greater Male Variance)

    Males have a 4 point average IQ superiority over females (according to the research of Prof. Rushton) and a 10% larger IQ variance, so it is virtually impossible for a genius theoretical physicist to be female. Calling the famous physicist "she" in your explanation of the Higgs is PC "isscienate fairydom" (isscienate = ignorant of science).

    Prof. Dr. Hugo de Garis

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 625.

    Well done British Science - yet again demonstrating the significant role that Britain plays in scientific discovery (and, to a great extent, in the practical application of science and technology).

    Hopefully the Government will recognise Higgs' great achievement by ring-fencing growth in the science and technology budget. Next stop - nuclear fusion?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 624.

    608.Ronnie

    isn't it a little short sighted to be looking for the answers on a single planet out of an infinitesimal amount of others?

    What do you imagine those remote operated vehicles wandering around on the surface of Mars are doing? Not just admiring the sceneray that's for sure. As for the others, getting there is the problem.

 

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