Nobel Prize-Winning 'God Particle' Physicist Peter Higgs Dies Aged 94

Physicist Peter Higgs, Nobel laureate known for the Higgs boson theory, passed away at 94. His groundbreaking work reshaped our understanding of the universe
Nobel Prize-Winning 'God Particle' Physicist Peter Higgs Dies Aged 94
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Nobel prize-winning Physicist Peter Higgs, whose theory of an undetected particle in the universe changed science, has died aged 94, the University of Edinburgh said on Tuesday. Edinburgh University, where Higgs held a professorial chair for many years, said he had passed away peacefully on Monday at home following a short illness.

The discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012 at the CERN research centre near Geneva was widely hailed as the biggest advance in knowledge about the cosmos for over three decades and pointed physics towards ideas that were once science fiction. “Peter Higgs was a remarkable individual – a truly gifted scientist whose vision and imagination have enriched our knowledge of the world that surrounds us,” said Professor Sir Peter Mathieson, the university Principal and Vice-Chancellor.

What came to be known as the Higgs boson would solve the riddle of where several fundamental particles get their mass from: by interacting with the invisible “Higgs field” that pervades space. That interaction, known as the “Brout-Englert-Higgs” mechanism, won Higgs and Belgium’s Francois Englert the Nobel prize in physics in 2013. Englert’s collaborator Robert Brout died in 2011.

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Nobel Prize-Winning 'God Particle' Physicist Peter Higgs Dies Aged 94

In 1964, Higgs’ first paper on the model was rejected by an academic physics journal at CERN as being “of no relevance to physics”. His revised paper, although published weeks after Englert and Brout’s, was the first to explicitly predict the existence of a new particle. “Over a weekend … I gradually realised that I knew two things that had to be brought together,” he said. “I had to go back to my office on the Monday and check that I hadn’t made a mistake about this.”

For nearly three decades, physicists at CERN and at Fermilab in Chicago replicated the “Big Bang” by smashing particles together, hoping to glimpse the Higgs boson in the resulting mini-explosions. CERN’s massive Large Hadron Collider finally proved to be the sledgehammer needed to crack the nut, and in 2012 two experiments there independently found the Higgs boson.

Englert and Higgs were in the packed auditorium at CERN to hear the announcement of the discovery, while hundreds of thousands watched online. “We have reached a milestone in our understanding of nature,” CERN Director General Rolf Heuer said, to a roar of applause. Higgs, clearly overwhelmed, his eyes welling up, told his fellow researchers: “It is an incredible thing that it has happened in my lifetime.”

The Higgs boson completed the Standard Model, but fully understanding it is a work in progress. Its discovery allowed theoreticians to turn their attention to the vast portion of the universe that remained unexplained, as well as esoteric ideas such as the possibility of parallel universes. An atheist, Higgs disliked the nickname “the God particle”, which headline writers frequently bestowed on the boson that bore his name.

He had strong views on what was good and bad about science and resigned from a movement for nuclear disarmament when it began campaigning against the harnessing of nuclear energy. In 1962 Higgs married Jody Williamson, an American linguist and nuclear disarmament campaigner, who died in 2008. They had two sons. Higgs was modest about his achievements and shy of the media.

Source: News18

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