Is this the year for Peter Higgs?

A little more than a year ago, I blogged about the possibility of a Nobel Prize for Peter Higgs and others. I was premature, probably because the deliberation about the 2012 prizes was well underway when the researchers announced the likely discovery on July 4, 2012.

Also, the committee probably wanted to wait for subsequent announcements that would strengthen the discovery and provide more insight into the presumed particle’s properties. Many are now calling it the Brout-Englert-Higgs boson because of a slightly earlier publication by Robert Brout and François Englert (August 1964 vs. Higgs’ October paper) that discussed the mass-giving field but did not specifically include the boson.

Now the speculation about the winner of this year’s Nobel Prizes has begun. Thomson Reuters, which publishes an index of research paper citations, predicts that this is the year for Higgs and Englert. (Brout is deceased and the prize is only awarded to living scientists.)

Since others contributed significant papers soon after (notably Gerald Guralnik, Carl Hagen, and Tom Kibble, who published their contribution in December), and since the Nobel can be shared up to three ways, I have to wonder whether there will be an additional winner.

Since physics is an interplay between theory and experiment, I also wonder how the experimentalists who designed and conducted the experiment that ultimately led to the boson’s discovery will be honored. I think it is likely that another Nobel Prize for that work will be forthcoming before the end of this decade.

Stay tuned.

P.S.: Recommended reading about the quest for the Higgs Boson, The Missing Particle That Sparked the Greatest Hunt in Science by Ian Sample

P.P.S.: If you are interested in my perspectives on the recent history of Physics and a look ahead to the discoveries waiting to happen in the next several years, please look for my 2007 book Physics: Decade by Decade in the Twentieth-Century Science collection from Facts on File.

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