Nobel Prize in physics honors prediction of Higgs boson

Francois Englert and Peter Higgs chat at the July 4, 2012, CERN conference that announced the discovery of the Higgs boson. Photo: CERN

Note: For more information on Fermilab’s role in the hunt for the Higgs, visit this Web page.

The Swedish Academy announced early this morning that they will award the 2013 Nobel Prize in physics to theorists Peter Higgs and Francois Englert, scientists responsible for developing key concepts in the theory that predicted the Higgs boson.

In the 1960s, the newly minted Nobel laureates each played a part in inventing the concept of the Higgs field, an essential piece of the Standard Model of physics that grants mass to elementary particles. On July 4, 2012, scientists working on experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN announced the discovery of the particle that proves the existence of that field: the Higgs boson. Nearly 2,000 physicists from U.S. institutions participate in the two LHC experiments that made the discovery, CMS and ATLAS. Fermilab serves as the U.S. hub for the CMS experiment.

“It is an honor that the Nobel Committee recognizes these theorists for their role in predicting what is one of the biggest discoveries in particle physics in the last few decades,” said Fermilab Director Nigel Lockyer. “I congratulate the whole particle physics community for this achievement.”

It took decades of effort by thousands of scientists — including those on experiments at the Large Electron-Positron Collider at CERN, at the Tevatron particle collider at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and at the LHC — to find the famous boson. In July 2012 scientists at the Tevatron saw signs of the Higgs boson in independent searches complementary to those performed at the LHC. Today’s Nobel announcement underscores the importance of that discovery, one of the most significant in the history of particle physics.

Kathryn Jepsen