‘God particle’ theorists receive Nobel Prize in physics

The Higgs boson is what gives all matter its mass and is a central part of scientific theory

CNN News Wire | 10/8/2013, 1:33 p.m.
The Large Hadron Collider is a circular tunnel located 100 meters (328 feet) underground, which uses a particle accelerator to collide protons at extreme speeds. European Organization for Nuclear Research

It was a landmark scientific advancement, and it was a first.

Many scientists dislike the term “God particle,” even though it’s become popular in the media. The nickname came from the title of a book by Leon Lederman, who reportedly wanted to call it the “Goddamn Particle” since it was so hard to find.

The Nobel Prize in physics makes a nice lifetime achievement award for Englert and Higgs. Both are professors emeritus: Englert at the Free University of Brussels; Higgs at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Though deserving, they are lucky, as the Royal Academy had a long list of brilliant scientists and achievements to choose from.

And the field of physics covers a virtually infinite scale, from beyond the smallest sub-atomic particles to the largest, most distant stars and quasars in the vast reaches of the universe.

Last year’s winners

Last year’s prize to Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland rewarded work in the field of quantum optics. It could lead the way to superfast computers and and the most precise clocks ever seen.

The two approached the same principles from opposite directions.

The American used light particles to measure the properties of matter, while his French colleague focused on tracking light particles by using atoms.

Both Nobel laureates found ways to isolate the subatomic particles and keep their properties intact at the same time.

Prior to the breakthrough, such particles quickly interacted with matter, which changed their qualities and rendered them unobservable. That left scientists stuck doing a lot of guesswork.

Past and future Nobels

Since 1901, the committee has handed out the Nobel Prize in physics 107 times, including this year’s award. The youngest recipient was Lawrence Bragg, who won in 1915 at the age of 25. Bragg is not only the youngest physics laureate; he is also the youngest laureate in any Nobel Prize area.

The oldest physics laureate was Raymond Davis Jr., who was 88 years old when he was awarded the prize in 2002.

John Bardeen was the only physicist to receive the prize twice, for work in semiconductors and superconductivity.

Two Americans and a German shared the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine this year.

Americans James E. Rothman and Randy W. Schekman and German Thomas C. Sudhof were awarded the prize Monday for discoveries of how the body’s cells decide when and where to deliver the molecules they produce.

Disruptions of this delivery system contribute to diabetes, neurological diseases and immunological disorders.

In the coming days, prize committees will announce the laureates in chemistry, literature, peace and economics.

Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel created the prizes in 1895 to honor work in physics, chemistry, literature and peace. The first economics prize was awarded in 1969.

Ben Brumfield | CNN