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Brit boson boffin Higgs bags Nobel with eponymous deiton

Colleague joins Poirot as memorable Belgian

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Peter Higgs and Francois Englert have won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on the theory of what came to be known as the Higgs boson.

Blighty's Higgs and Belgium's Englert were among a number of physicists in the 1960s who suggested that a sub-atomic particle was responsible for giving the rest of the particles in the universe mass.

Higgs name was propelled to the top of the Nobel list after researchers at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN found compelling evidence for the existence of his boson last year and backed it up with further findings earlier this year.

The Higgs boson has long presented a difficulty for the Nobel committee, since any prize is restricted to a maximum of three people, but at least six boffins are arguably behind the theory.

Englert's colleague Robert Brout, another Belgian, died in 2011. But the awarding of the prize to Englert, who published the idea first, and Higgs, who predicted the particle, could be given a dim view by researchers Gerald Guralnik, Carl Richard Hagen and Tom Kibble, who came up with the theory separately and published a month after Higgs.

On top of that, thousands of scientists worked on the Atlas and CMS experiments at the particle accelerator at CERN which actually found the boson, but there was no way for them to be honoured by the Nobel committee unless they had decided to give the prize to CERN as an institution. A future committee could still decide to do that if CERN boffins find the next holy grail of physics, dark matter.

“I’m thrilled that this year’s Nobel Prize has gone to particle physics,” said CERN director-general Rolf Heuer.

“The discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN last year, which validates the Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism, marks the culmination of decades of intellectual effort by many people around the world.”

Higgs, who is emeritus professor of physics at Edinburgh University, said that he was "overwhelmed" at winning the prize.

"I would also like to congratulate all those who have contributed to the discovery of this new particle and to thank my family, friends and colleagues for their support. I hope this recognition of fundamental science will help raise awareness of the value of blue-sky research," he said.

Englert and Higgs will share this year's prize money, which amounts to $1.25m (SEK 8 million). ®

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