In the world of theoretical physics, Francois Englert of Belgium and Peter Higgs of Britain are superheroes. Back in 1964, they both, independently of each other, rescued the Standard Model as a current best-fit explanation for how subatomic particles interact. The two, along with Englert’s now deceased colleague Robert Brout, predicted that a new fundamental particle existed and that other particles should gain mass during their interactions with this particle.
On July 4, 2012, Englert and Higgs met for the first time at CERN, in front of a global audience as the world’s largest particle physics laboratory announced having found a so-called Higgs particle in existence.
Today, Englert and Higgs share the honor of receiving the 2013 Nobel Prize in physics 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.”
Despite Englert and Higgs being the most anticipated winners for the prize, today’s award announcement followed a one-hour delay at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. But academy spokepersons stressed that the decision on the winners was made today, and that the academy took their time in discussing all candidates in order to best honor the will of Alfred Nobel.
“I didn’t see any announcement that I didn’t have it, but now I’m very happy,” said Englert when the Academy reached him by phone to answer questions from the press. When asked how winning a Nobel Prize made him feel, Englert shared with a laugh: “This is not very unpleasant.” Adding that, “I’m very happy to have the achievement of this extraordinary award.”
Are there more Higgs particles out there in the universe waiting to be discovered through physical experiments such as the Large Hadron Collider? Or a a better way to describe the interactions of particles in our universe besides using the Standard Model? Maybe…
IMAGE: British physicist Peter Higgs (R) speaks with Belgium physicist Francois Englert at a press conference on July 4, 2012 at European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) offices in Meyrin near Geneva. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/GettyImages)