News / Europe

Nobel Physics Prize Goes to 'God Particle' Theorists

FILE - British physicist Peter Higgs, right, talks with Belgian physicist Francois Englert at CERN news conference, near Geneva, July 4, 2012.
FILE - British physicist Peter Higgs, right, talks with Belgian physicist Francois Englert at CERN news conference, near Geneva, July 4, 2012.
VOA News
Francois Englert of Belgium and Peter Higgs of Britain have won the 2013 Nobel Prize for physics for the discovery of the so-called "God particle."

2013 Nobel Prize in Physics

Awarded for the theory of how particles acquire mass to:

  • Francois Englert of the Universite Libre de Bruxelles
  • Peter Higgs of the University of Edinburgh
  • Englert and Higgs proposed the theory independently of each other in 1964
  • Their ideas were confirmed in 2012 by the discovery of a so-called Higgs, or 'God' particle
Staffan Normark of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the winners Tuesday in Stockholm, describing the discovery as "something very small that makes all the difference."

He said, "And the Academy citation runs: '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.' "

The two scientists, Englert and Higgs, are known for discovering the Higgs boson, the sub-atomic particle nicknamed "the God particle" because it validates a very basic concept of particle physics, the so-called "Higgs field," which is believed to make possible the existence of atoms themselves.

Scientists, who have sought the particle for nearly 50 years, believe the Higgs boson existed only during the first millionth of a millionth of a second after the Big Bang, the explosion which created the universe some 13 billion years ago.

Joe Incandela, a spokesman for one of the experiment teams, has previously described the boson as being unlike any particle found so far.

"We are reaching into the fabric of the universe at a level we have never done before," said Incandela. "This is telling us something. It is key to the structure of the universe. We are on the frontier now. We are at the edge of a new exploration and this could open up - maybe we see nothing extraordinary, and we understand that maybe this is the only part of the story that is left. Or maybe we open up a whole new realm of discovery."

The Higgs boson was detected in 2012 at the European Center for Nuclear Research's giant, underground particle-smasher near Geneva, Switzerland, also known as the CERN laboratory. The discovery was later confirmed in March of this year after a series of international ATLAS and CMS experiments performed at that lab.

Many American scientists contributed to both experiments.

The Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York state served as the U.S. hub for the ATLAS experiment, and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (in the state of Illinois) served as the U.S. hub for the CMS experiment.  

Howard Gordon, deputy chair of the Brookhaven physics department, spoke to VOA about the discovery of the Higgs boson.

He said, "We found evidence that it was true. There was a lot of speculation about this theory. There were people that had different ideas of how these particles would get their mass, so there was quite a bit of skepticism about this theory, which was postulated 50 years ago.  But, yes, our two experiments, ATLAS and CMS, proved that the theory was correct."

Gordon called the discovery a "great triumph of intellectual accomplishment." He said, "The fact that somebody had this idea, and it’s been proven out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have any practical application that we know of today. "

 But he added, "I always like to look back 100 years or more, when questions of what was an electron good for, what is Einstein’s theory of relativity good for.  In the case of Einstein’s theory of relativity, a modern GPS uses relativistic corrections to get its accuracy, so without the theory of relativity that Einstein came up with 100 years ago, we wouldn’t have the application for the GPS today. So this is something that doesn’t have an immediate application. We don’t know really how it’s going to be used.  But it’s a tremendous triumph of science to understand now what gives these elementary particles their mass."

The "God particle" is the last piece of mystery in the Standard Model of physics, a theory that explains how everything in the cosmos is made from 12 basic building blocks.

The two scientists will share a $1.25 million prize that will be handed out in December.  

Prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace were first awarded in 1901 in accordance with the will of dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel.

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Comment Sorting
by: riano baggy from: indonesia
October 09, 2013 7:38 AM
congratulation to Mr Englert and Mr Higgs. The God particle,now it,s a hot discuss. I think jury have remind to us how important our universe so we live a small planet among thousand planets, so we must care for our generation and next generation.

by: Cranksy from: USA
October 08, 2013 11:00 PM
"Englert and Higgs proposed the theory independently of each other in 1964." (from VOA) Darwin and Wallace: "He [Wallace] is best know for independently conceiving the theory of evolution through natural selection." (from Wikipedia) Newton and Leibniz: "Generally [calculus] is considered to have been founded in the 17th century by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz...." (from Wikipedia) How seriously should we take the notion: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

by: Studentchienle from: Canada
October 08, 2013 9:37 PM
I learned Quantum Physics from 1987,just researching structures of Atoms,I admired many historic researches long
time ago, and beginningMendeleev in Russia, and every year
with Nobel Prize for inventions of Physics,each invention was ,is ,will applied into practice, like Radio,TV,Cassette,color TV, Transistors,and now computers, and Internet,with experiments very real,and now they can accelerated by programming,timing,designing,with multiple applications in life,
the life now is too much better, nearly the best of the best, people can see ,hear each other fromth longest distance of theworld in present time,can record in camera,video,Ipad,Ipod...
havinga magic pearl in hand everytime, everywhere, knowing
newest news in any parts of the world insome second from the
disasters, earthquake, storms even in anywhere while sleeping in bed, in boats, in restaurants,Hotels, on planes,
when telling what they will complete like they will have video
camera very small as a handful, from 1965, until year of 2000
(40 years to complete), dedicating to fulfill,totally applied into practice from inventions from Physics or Chemistry, Medicines
inumerables of achievements like a dictionary of products for serving better life on earth,even on discovery DNA, searching new genes for new high productivity in rice plants inPhilippines
solving starvation for Asia(1970,Scientist Borland USA)
Sub-Atoms were discovered from 1962,but until 2012, has just claimed true,with experiments from CERN (Hadron Reactor) a giant achievement of human kind, a movement
of applications always going on after it,and always so like many
others before, if we can not doing any new next, the first achievement is gettingnew data from news, data for health, transportation, security,alarming disasters,erathquakes,forecast
weather more and more accurate,knowingmore what happen next insome targets inthe body,like cancers, AIDS,...designing smaller or larger, faster, but slower in meeting the death.,the world as well as me appreciate this achievement and admire ,
the feat of CERN group ,especially Mr F.Englert,Mr Peter Higgs,your name will be marked as Einstein, Oppenheimer, for me Sub-atom has had an inspiration in programming,designing in world of Micro,macro, level n,when observing a drop of water in zero gravity, we can see the dimension of universe, and the speed of light is nothing
comparing the previous inventions,thanks to discovering sub-atoms, we cansee more the structures of the Universe,the happenings of materials im everywhereon earth even things we cannot see,hear...Magic things begins from now on

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
October 08, 2013 1:49 PM
'For the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles...' Please stress on the keyword THEORETICAL, and see how foolish it sounds. Here I can see a hypothesis put forward to prove the non-existence of an intelligence that brought the universe into existence, and the award is nothing but a desire to use an un-provable theory to becloud the intellect of the unwary and redirect it to something absolutely beyond comprehension. Can Non-existence result in existence? IMPOSSIBLE! For while we see such theories as the existence of higgs boson to be dangerously diversionary, science continues to recede into fable and fairy tales and continues to migrate beyond human reach, so that we are inundated with stories of planets, comets, stars and asteroids that are trillions of light years away. In other words, we are told of things that there is no way of proving them in this life, theories that only the scientists cook up to deceive the rest of humanity. For who is there to travel with light for a billion years to understand where its image is coming from? Who is to prove to us that such lights have been traveling through those years, the distance and have not been interrupted or distorted until it locates our universe? Knowledge that has no way of benefiting mankind, not now, not in the time to come. Now we want to prove higgs boson as the binding relationship of matter in atoms; what happens to magnetism? What is the force behind AIDS virus? What power drives cancer cell and how are we to change its nomenclature to at least turn it to manageable strain? How is mankind going to survive a nuclear bomb in the much anticipated WWIII? Is it possible to reverse climate change and by what means? How is mankind going to conquer aging and diseases? The Nobel; recognition of the discovery of higgs boson is an expensive distraction that the world at this stage will consider treacherous, especially when huge sums of money may be involved, money that should be used to feed the world's poor and hungry. I hear the research center for this stupid theory costs in hundreds of billions of dollars, and another million plus is going to the formulators of the fable theory. What an odd world! All just because someone somewhere wants to say there is no God. Even when prof. Dawin propounded the theory of evolution from the big bang, he did not insist the particle world was not created. Instead he tended to direct attention to a systematic development of living things from unicellular, to simple multicellular and complex multicellular organisms and beings. He did not intend it to lead to this wild cart chase.

In Response

by: Hans from: Australia
October 08, 2013 11:46 PM
Godwin - He always does win - you are quite right but you too felt for this man made climate change nonsense. It's the sun and not the 3% of gases which human produce and those 3% overpower the rest of 97% produced by nature.
Evolutionists always have that something does something to something to become something new.

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