Francois Englert and Peter Higgs have won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on a particle that is thought to be a key to explaining the universe. The Higgs boson is thought to explain the origin of mass.
The elusive particle is seen as central in explaining why elementary matter has mass. It has long been a missing piece of the Standard Model, the theory used as a basis for the understanding of particle physics for the past 50 years.
“I am overwhelmed to receive this award and thank the Royal Swedish Academy,” said the 84-year-old Higgs, in a statement from the University of Edinburgh, where he is based. “I hope this recognition of fundamental science will help raise awareness of the value of blue-sky research.”
Englert, the first Belgian to win the Nobel Physics Prize, described himself as “very, very happy.”
The scientists had been favorites to share the 8 million Swedish crown (920,000 euros, $1.25 million) prize after a theory they developed separately was crucially stengthened by experiments that were carried out at the CERN research center in Geneva late last year. The center’s Large Hadron Collider was said to have successfully tracked the particle.
“The awarded theory is a central part of the Standard Model of particle physics that describes how the world is constructed,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement.
“According to the Standard Model, everything, from flowers and people to stars and planets, consists of just a few building blocks: matter particles.”
Englert and Higgs both theorized in the 1960s about the particle’s existence in an attempt to solve the riddle of what confers mass to matter, with the experimental validation coming decades later. Higgs, an atheist, has always objected to the “God particle” nickname that is often given to the Higgs boson.
rc/hc (AP, AFP, dpa)