October 8, 2013

2013 Physics Nobel for the Symmetry Breaking Theory that Predicted the Higgs Boson

College Park, MD – The 2013 Physics Nobel Prize has been awarded to two physicists who were instrumental in developing the theory that helps explain the origin of mass of elementary particles and predicts the existence of the Higgs Boson discovered last year. The prize, which recognizes the contributions of Francois Englert (Universite Libre de Bruxelles) and Peter Higgs (University of Edinburgh) for the theory of broken symmetry in electroweak physics, echoes the announcement of the 2010 American Physical Society’s J. J. Sakurai prize, which was awarded to the two Nobel Laureates as well as four additional physicists who made comparable contributions to the symmetry breaking work.  

"The discovery of the Higgs boson has captured the imagination of physicists and the public alike," said American Physical Society president Michael Turner. "It is hard to find a cab driver anywhere in the world who when he knows you are physicist doesn't ask about the Higgs boson. This is a tremendous achievement, involving more than 10,000 physicists from around the world to build, operate and analyze data from the most complex and most expensive science experiment ever built. The discovery of this new class of elementary particles not only completes one of the great intellectual achievements of the last century -- the standard model of particle physics -- but also raises new questions and has implications for other areas of physics including the birth of the Universe. Hats off to the global village of physicists who made this grand discovery possible, from Peter Higgs and Francois Englert to the thousands of scientists working at CERN --- many from the US and many not even born when Higgs wrote his paper. The particle is truly worthy of the name that Leon Lederman gave it -- the god particle."  

The landmark papers the Laureates published that laid the foundation for spontaneous symmetry breaking appeared in the flagship APS journal Physical Review Letters in 1964. Both papers are available free-to-read to the general public.  

Broken Symmetry and the Mass of Gauge Vector Mesons
F. Englert and R. Brout
Phys. Rev. Lett. 13, 321 (1964)

Broken Symmetries and the Masses of Gauge Bosons
Peter W. Higgs
Phys. Rev. Lett. 13, 508 (1964)

"We congratulate the Laureates and all who have contributed to this marvelous triumph for physics," said APS Editor in Chief Gene Sprouse. "APS is proud to have published the seminal papers that have led to this year's Nobel Prize."  

The 2010 APS Sakurai prize cited Robert Brout (Universite Libre de Bruxelles), Gerald S. Guralnik (Brown University), Carl R. Hagen (University of Rochester), and T.W.B. Kibble (Imperial College) along with Englert and Higgs because the contributions of all six physicists were instrumental to the development of the highly successful standard theory of physics. In fact, Steven Weinberg (1979 Physics Nobel Laureate) cited them all on equal footing in his landmark paper “A Model of Leptons.” 

“It’s unfortunate that this Nobel Prize is limited to only two recipients,” said R. Sekhar Chivukula (2010 chair of the APS Sakurai Prize Selection Committee), “because failing to recognize the work of Guralnik, Hagen and Kibble is a significant oversight. I’m glad that the APS could award a prestigious prize in a way that makes clear just how important they all were in establishing the foundations of contemporary particle physics.” The 2010 Sakurai Prize cites Guralnik, Hagen, Kibble, Brout, Englert, and Higgs for “elucidation of the properties of spontaneous symmetry breaking in four-dimensional relativistic gauge theory and of the mechanism for the consistent generation of vector boson masses".

More information about the Sakurai Prize

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The American Physical Society is a non-profit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. APS represents over 53,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world. Society offices are located in College Park, MD (Headquarters), Ridge, NY, and Washington, D.C.