Speculators have begun to wonder, in the days leading up to the announcement of the 2013 Nobel Prize for physics, whether the Swedish Academy will recognize the most celebrated particle physics discovery of 2012: the Higgs boson.
Media and information firm Thomson Reuters recently intensified the buzz by predicting that Francois Englert, a Belgian physicist associated with Université Libre de Bruxelles and Chapman University in California, and Peter Higgs, a British physicist associated with the University of Edinburgh, will receive the honors this year. Both scientists helped develop the theory of the famed boson.
The Higgs boson is a particle associated with the Higgs field, an essential component of our universe that gives mass to elementary particles. Theorists first predicted the existence of the particle and field in 1964, and two large, international teams of scientists working on experiments at the Large Hadron Collider finally announced its discovery on July 4, 2012. Nearly 2000 scientists from the United States helped make the discovery at the LHC happen.
Thomson Reuters studies citations of individuals’ research to determine likely Nobel winners, a technique that has resulted in 27 successful predictions in a dozen years, including seven for physics. In 2012, a representative of the firm rejected the idea of a Higgs-related win, arguing that the discovery took place too late in the year to be recognized through the prize.
This year, however, Thomson Reuters is all in, mentioning Englert and Higgs at the top of their 2013 Nobel-predictions press release.
They could have picked an additional possible winner; the Nobel Prize for Physics can be shared among up to three recipients. But it’s understandable that they didn’t; choosing a third person from the group of dozens of theorists and thousands of experimentalists, at the LHC and at Fermilab's Tevatron and CERN's Large Electron Positron Collider before it, who contributed to the effort would have been no easy task.
Many think deceased Belgian theorist Robert Brout, who collaborated with Englert on his Higgs paper in 1964, could have rounded out the group, but the Nobel Prize cannot be awarded posthumously. The Swedish Academy might instead choose to honor another member of a group of six theorists to whom the American Physical Society awarded the J.J. Sakurai Prize in 2010 for their work advancing Higgs theory.
The winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics will be announced on Oct. 8 sometime after 4:45 a.m. CDT (11:45 a.m. in Stockholm).
If you’d like to brush up on your Higgs know-how before the possible big announcement, check out the following resources and information from symmetry and from other publications and institutions.