Higgs boson, key to the universe, wins Nobel physics prize

Tue Oct 8, 2013 7:44pm EDT
 
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By Simon Johnson and Johan Ahlander

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Britain's Peter Higgs and Francois Englert of Belgium won the Nobel Prize for physics on Tuesday for predicting the existence of the Higgs boson particle that explains how elementary matter attained the mass to form stars and planets.

The insight has been hailed as one of the most important in the understanding of the cosmos. Without the Higgs mechanism all particles would travel at the speed of light and atoms would not exist.

Half a century after the scientists' original prediction, the new building block of nature was finally detected in 2012 at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) centre's giant, underground particle-smasher near Geneva.

"I am overwhelmed to receive this award," said Higgs, who is known to shun the limelight and did not appear in public on Tuesday despite winning the world's top science prize.

"I hope this recognition of fundamental science will help raise awareness of the value of blue-sky research," he said in a statement via the University of Edinburgh where he works.

The two scientists had been favorites to share the 8 million Swedish crown ($1.25 million) prize after their theoretical work was vindicated by the CERN experiments.

To find the elusive particle, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) had to pore over data from the wreckage of trillions of sub-atomic proton collisions.

The Higgs boson is the last piece of the Standard Model of physics that describes the fundamental make-up of the universe. Some commentators - though not scientists - have called it the "God particle", for its role in turning the Big Bang into an ordered cosmos.   Continued...

 
Belgian physicist Francois Englert reacts as he appears at the balcony of his house in Brussels October 8, 2013, after he and Britain's Peter Higgs won the 2013 Nobel prize for physics. REUTERS/Yves Herman