The Higgs boson is a theoretical particle that may explain where mass comes from and advances man's understanding of how the world is constructed.
Higgs boson wins Nobel physics prize for European scientists Higgs, Englert
SWEDEN // Two European scientists won the Nobel Prize in physics for describing the Higgs boson, a theoretical particle that may explain where mass comes from and advances man’s understanding of how the world is constructed.
Peter Higgs, 84, a retired professor of theoretical physics at the University of Edinburgh, and Francois Englert, 80, a retired professor at the Free University of Brussels, will share the 8 million-krona ($1.25 million) prize, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said today in Stockholm.
The particle is the final piece of the jigsaw in the Standard Model, a theory explaining how the universe is built, and its existence would help scientists gain a better understanding of how galaxies hold together.
The boson is named after Higgs, one of six scientists who devised a working theory of how elemental particles achieve mass in a three-month period in 1964. Englert had been the first to publish the theory a month earlier, along with Robert Brout, a Belgian colleague who died two years ago and wasn’t eligible for Nobel recognition because it is limited to living recipients.
“I’m very, very happy to have the recognition of this extraordinary reward,” Englert said, speaking by phone to a press conference held at the science academy. Higgs wasn’t immediately available to comment.
Researchers at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, said they had observed a particle that may be the Higgs boson last year. New results from the large Hadron collider in Geneva based on analysis of more data and presented at a conference in Italy this year “strongly indicate” that the particle discovered is a Higgs boson, CERN said in March. The particle is “looking more and more” like the missing link in the Standard Model, CERN said in a statement.
Particle physics is the study of the elemental building blocks that make up matter. These particles, with names such as quark, fermion, lepton and boson, can’t be subdivided. They exist and interact within several unseen fields that permeate the universe.
Scientists are trying to prove the existence of the Higgs field by displaying a physical effect for the Higgs boson, a particle that lives for less than a trillionth of a second and is an excitation, or force, within the Higgs field.
Higgs, speaking in July last year in the Old College at the University of Edinburgh, where he worked from 1960 until his retirement in 1996, said he didn’t expect the theoretical particle to be found in his lifetime. He was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, in 1929.
“It’s very nice to be right sometimes,” he said then. Stephen Hawking, a British theoretical physicist who thought the boson wouldn’t be found, has said Higgs should get a Nobel.
“It’s a big day for physics,” said Arnaud Marsollier, a spokesman for CERN. “CERN is happy and proud to have helped.”
Englert, born in Etterbeek, Belgium, said he doesn’t yet know what he will do with the prize money.
The Nobel announcement was postponed by an hour, suggesting the committee took longer than expected to agree on a prize winner. The academy declined to give a reason for the delay.
“An academy should be a forum for lively discussion,” said Per Carlson, a former chairman of the Nobel committee and a professor of physics at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm who was in the room. “I cannot go into the details.”
Last year’s physics prize went to Serge Haroche, from France’s Ecole Normale Superieure, and David J. Wineland, of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado. They shared the award for the discovery of new ways to manipulate quantum particles without changing their nature.
Annual prizes for achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, peace and literature were established in the will of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite, who died in 1896. The Nobel Foundation was established in 1900 and the prizes were first handed out the following year. The first Nobel in physics was awarded to Wilhelm Roentgen for his discovery of X-rays.