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2 win physics Nobel for Higgs theory

The "God particle" became the Prize particle Tuesday.

Two theoretical physicists who suggested that an invisible ocean of energy suffusing space is responsible for the mass and diversity of the particles in the universe won the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday morning. They are Peter Higgs, 84, of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and François Englert, 80, of the University Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium.

The theory, elucidated in 1964, sent physicists on a generation-long search for a telltale particle known as the Higgs boson, or the God particle. The chase culminated in July 2012 with the discovery of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, in Switzerland.

Higgs and Englert will split a prize of $1.2 million, to be awarded in Stockholm on Dec. 10.

The Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences said the prize was "for the discovery of the mechanism that contributes to understanding the origin of the mass of subatomic particles."

"You may imagine that this is not unpleasant," Englert said in an early morning news conference.

The academy had not yet been able to contact Higgs, who had said before that he would not be available Tuesday. In a phone call Tuesday morning, Alan Walker, a physicist and friend of Higgs said that he had gone off by himself for a few days without saying where, and that he would return Friday. He said he did not know if Higgs, who does not use a cellphone or a computer, knew he had won the Nobel.

The prize had been expected ever since physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider announced on July 4, 2012, that they had discovered a particle matching the description of the Higgs, setting off headlines and sending champagne fountains flowing around the world.

But it came with a dose of disappointment for some. The notion of this energy ocean, now known as the Higgs field, arose in three papers published independently in 1964.

One was by Higgs. Another was by Englert and his colleague Robert Brout, who died in 2011. The third paper was by Tom Kibble of Imperial College, London; Carl Hagen of the University of Rochester; and Gerald Guralnik of Brown University. It came last and its authors have struggled to get recognition.

The Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously, and traditionally no more than three people have been permitted to share a single prize.

The new Nobel laureates Belgian physicist Francois Englert, left, and British physicist Peter Higgs answer questions in 2012.

Associated Press (2012)

The new Nobel laureates Belgian physicist Francois Englert, left, and British physicist Peter Higgs answer questions in 2012.

2 win physics Nobel for Higgs theory 10/08/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 11:25pm]
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