Englert, Higgs Win Physics Nobel for Particle Mass
Francois Englert of Belgium and Peter Higgs of Britain won the 2013 Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday for their theory on how the most basic building blocks of the universe acquire mass, eventually forming the world we know today.
Their concept was confirmed last year by the discovery of the so-called Higgs particle, also known as the Higgs boson, at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.
"I am overwhelmed to receive this award and thank the Royal Swedish Academy," the 84-year-old Higgs said in a statement released by the University of Edinburgh, where he is a professor emeritus. "I hope this recognition of fundamental science will help raise awareness of the value of blue-sky research."
"Of course I'm happy," the 80-year-old Englert told reporters, thanking all those who helped him in his research.
Asked whether he could have imagined getting a Nobel Prize when he started the research 50 years ago, he said no.
"You don't work thinking to get the Nobel Prize, that's not how you work," Englert said. "(Still) we had the impression that we were doing something that was important, that would later on be used by other researchers."
The announcement, which was widely expected, was delayed an hour, which is highly unusual. The academy gave no immediate reason, other than saying on Twitter that it was "still in session." The academy decides the winners in a majority vote on the day of the announcement.
Staffan Normark, the permanent secretary of the academy, said the academy had tried to reach Higgs on Tuesday but "all the numbers we tried he did not answer." He wouldn't say if that's why the announcement was delayed.
By just awarding the men behind the theoretical discovery of the particle, the prize committee avoided the tricky issue of picking someone at the CERN laboratory to share the award. Thousands of scientists were involved in the experiments that confirmed the particle's existence last year.
The Nobel award can only be split by three people.
Academy member Ulf Danielsson noted that the prize citation also honored the work done at CERN, even though it didn't single out any of its scientists.
"This is a giant discovery, it means the final building block in the so-called standard model for particle physics has been put in place, so it marks a milestone in the history of physics," Danielsson said.
Englert and Higgs theorized about the existence of the particle in the 1960s to provide an answer to a riddle: why matter has mass. The tiny particle, they believed, acts like molasses on snow -- causing other basic building blocks of nature to stick together, slow down and form atoms.