Higgs and Englert Win Nobel Prize in Physics
Let’s face it—science is cool. We live in a world where thousands of scientific discoveries are occurring every day. These findings vary in their impact on humankind. One could argue that researching the cure for cancer is more worthwhile than engineering the perfect glass of strawberry milk. However, is there one recent scientific discovery that is more important than all the rest? Maybe.
The Nobel Prize for physics was recently given to Peter Higgs and Francois Englert for predicting the existence of the Higgs boson particle. This particle explains how the basic building blocks of the universe attained the mass necessary to create the myriad stars and planets in our universe. It has been regarded as one of the most important discoveries in all of physics.
“I am overwhelmed to receive this award and thank the Royal Swedish Academy,” Higgs said in a statement. “I would also like to congratulate all those who have contributed to the discovery of this new particle and to thank my family, friends and colleagues for their support. I hope this recognition of fundamental science will help raise awareness of the value of blue-sky research.”
Despite the importance that receiving the prestigious award carries, Higgs was not able to be located for an interview immediately after the announcement. In fact, he did not know he had won the award at all until a former neighbor told him on the street. “She congratulated me on the news and I said ‘oh, what news?'” He added that he was bombarded with messages of the good news once he returned home.
This is by no means a new idea. Englert and Higgs originally theorized about the reality of the Higgs particle in the 1960s. It would be several decades until the team was able to confirm its existence through the use of the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland. CERN Director General Rolf Heuer said he was “thrilled” that the Nobel Prize had been award to particle physics. The discovery of the particle at CERN last year “marks the culmination of decades of intellectual effort by many people around the world.”
The Higgs particle answers the important question of how matter formed shortly after the Big Bang to create the universe. The solution involves the existence of an invisible field that extends throughout the entire universe. The more the elementary particles inside atoms interact with this field, the greater their mass and the heavier they become.
This is the second Nobel Prize awarded this year. The first was the Nobel Prize in medicine given to James Rothman, Randy Schekman, and Thomas Sudhof for the discovery of the way that key substances move around within cells. Each prize is worth roughly $1.2 million and is split between the winners of the award.
How do you feel about Higgs and Englert winning the Nobel Prize? Were there other candidates who should have received the award instead? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.