jump to navigation

Higgs Found at ATLAS! April 15, 2008

Posted by gordonwatts in Higgs, physics life.

image Ok, this wasn’t April 1st, rather April 4th. What is worse is CMS saw him first. Darn!

That picture is of the ATLAS detector and Peter Higgs, the fellow whose last name is attached to the Higgs particle – the particle that all of us are after.

See? ATLAS saw him!

Coincidentally an email conversation broke out on a D0 mailing list around the time of this picture discussing the origins of the Higgs mechanism. It was sparked by this yahoo news article. The title is “‘God particle’ expected to be found soon.” Hmmm. Expected to be found? Not sure we are that sure… At any rate.

The email conversation was interesting because because it pointed out that in science often more than one person has the same idea at the same time. Discovery is partly having all the bits in place to build the discovery on. Once all the bits are in place then several people can make the leap.

I’m not familiar with this bit of history, besides Peter Higgs, there was also Robert Brout, Francois Englert, and Tom Kibble in Europe. There are two in America too – Gerald Guralnik and C.R. Hagen. I note that on the Englert page what we normally call the Higgs mechanism is called the Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism. On the Kibble page it notes that he is credited with the co-discovery of the Higgs with Guralnik and Hagen, the beauty of wikipedia! 🙂 [they are all basically right, I believe]. Oh — hey — and the UR home page has something up about Hagen as well.

I went to the University of Rochester for my graduate work and my quantum mechanics class was taught by Hagen. At the time I didn’t fully appreciate the work he had done.



1. Joe - April 26, 2008

GG (who I believe was at U of R at time of Higgs discovery) details the specifics of the Hagen, Kibble, Guralnik team.

See link:

2. Sam - June 18, 2008
3. Fred Samec - June 28, 2008

My brother Augustine Samec PhD, has been saying saying this for years but everyone ignored him. I am sick of others getting credit for what he has done.

4. Joseph - September 27, 2008

Higgs has a hell of a PR machine. He was last to the party. Luckiest guy in the world. Irony is he is the one oldest of the six theorists – hope they find it quickly

5. gordonwatts - September 27, 2008

I don’t know why it was that everything centered on him in the end. Looking back at history there is probably, as usual, a collection of factors that point to why the community, in general, calls it the Higgs. I guess there is a book somewhere I should be reading…

6. Joseph - September 28, 2008

This is easy. See ‘tHooft and Veltman. These two care very much about attribution – and retribution. In the particle physics world, it is thought by the older theorists that t’Hooft and Veltman started referencing this mechanism or boson without the other team. Additionally, t’Hooft feels very strongly that many Europeans have been cut out of their share of Nobel prizes and he is trying to help correct this. The Wolf Prize is one of the results of this effort

7. Joseph - September 28, 2008


Above post should point out that t’Hoft and Veltman are pushing BEH. The Nobel math works this way for the Europeans. Sorry for the omission.


8. Gordon Watts - September 28, 2008

Thanks, Joe, I had no idea.

9. Manny - December 3, 2008
10. Larry - December 12, 2008

David Chu who is now new Energy Secretary is a Univ of Rochester Physics grad also. Pretty cool.

11. Larry - December 12, 2008

I mean Steven Chu. Sorry about that – should not post so late at night.

12. gordonwatts - December 12, 2008

Yeah — I just saw that! That is cool, isn’t it? I keep meaning to write about it, but I’ve had no time!

13. Justin - May 19, 2009

Here is the best example to date of how dishonsest BE are. To think they never even heard of the GHK team. Unreal. Joseph above has it right – but why folks let them get away with it is beyond me.


14. Larry - May 19, 2009

Yep. Good point – interesting read.

15. Larry - July 21, 2009


I would love to see a blog on this paper – or at least hear your thoughts.

I think you and your father will find it most interesting. Frankly, anyone who has an interest in the mass boson, LHC, Fermi, and physics history will find it a great read and probably agree that it is the one of the most definitive histories on the Higgs boson theory discovery.

If you want to know what theoretical physics was like back in the 60’s (when your father was in grad school) in places such as Cambridge Mass, London, and Rochester it also gets into that and discusses the key players at those locations. Most importantly, it tells the story of the mass boson through the eyes of GHK and the merits of the three papers that were credited (and recognized as milestone papers this year by PRL’s 50th anniversary) for the mass boson discovery back in 1964. The paper will most likely tick off a few Europeans (t’Hooft, Veltman, BEH, etc.) but it is the first honest assessment of the three papers that have been written. Especially when compared to the BE paper posted earlier on this thread.


Hope all is well. Let me know your thoughts.

16. Larry - July 21, 2009

Should have noted in my post today that the Guralnik’s paper on GHK history and Symmetry Breaking was published in a recent issues International Journal of Modern Physics A (IJMPA)


17. Gordon Watts - July 23, 2009


The text at the bottom of page 20 and top of 21 is particularly painful to read. Especially in the presumed run-up to a nobel prize being awarded sometime in the next 5 or so years if we are lucky enough to find the Higgs at the LHC.

18. Larry - July 23, 2009

Yep. Golks like Veltman, t’Hooft, BEH, Mark Henderson (London Times), and James Gilies at CERN have done a good job of making the boson an “EU-centric” history. How about a seperate blog on this paper or topic.

Thanks for reading.

19. Gordon Watts - July 23, 2009

Yeah – i’ve not really followed it very closely – I just know we call it the Higgs. I don’t think you can pin it on any one person (or five). Social dynamics are hard to understand.

I haven’t decided if I’m going to make a blog entry on the paper yet. I’m reluctant to insert myself into this argument/fight – because I really do not know what happened. Most of my posts on the Higgs topics have not been from this perspective, as you notice, but all the comments are… so…

20. Larry - July 23, 2009

Fair points. The history of the “golden age of physics” is still a great read if nothing else. Leaving the politics aside the paper is interesting and written in a pleasant tone – more so than my posts anyway.

I like how the paper really gets into the three papers and compares them. Doubtful that you will ever see this elsewhere.

21. Gordon Watts - July 23, 2009

Ha! Sorry Larry. But 🙂 I do like the paper.

Larry - July 24, 2009

Thanks. Curious if your Dad worked with any of the names in the paper. Maybe not, as I think he was more on the experimentalist side – and New Haven is no Cambridge (or even Rochester) 🙂

Hope all is well.

22. Maria - July 24, 2009

Nice paper. You don’t see the comparisons of these papers anymore which is unique. The names and stories from the past are cool also.

It will be a big controversy or will get sorted out through time passage.

I wonder how the others would respond to only solving “half the problem”.

23. Gordon Watts - July 24, 2009

Larry – he was 100% experimentalist.

Maria – that is the problem. This will have to be sorted through at about the timescale it takes someone to see the Higgs at 5 sigma. If we assume that the Higgs is low mass, and the LHC will start “soon”, and you think the SM higgs exists, then I’d guess in about 5 years + 1 year to verify and then if the nobel committee decides if this is worth a nobel it will decide.

So, that isn’t long. And I suspect that most people see the Nobel committee as “setting the story in stone” as it were. If names are left off it will be hard to argue them back into recognition.

24. Maria - July 24, 2009

Yes – you are right. People may just have to accept you can be considered a great physicist without a Nobel around your neck. It just sounds like from this post and paper that GHK has been a bit cut out of the recent history writing.

Good paper – maybe it helps them. Maybe not. But it should be an interesting ride.

25. Larry - August 7, 2009


One last thing on this as you work on your blog on the paper :)…check out the “Acknowledgments” part of the paper (p.23) . I am fairly certain TF was friends with your father at Yale back in the day.

Hope all is well.


26. gordonwatts - August 7, 2009

I know TF quite well, and he knows my Dad pretty well too. I first met TF when I arrived at Rochester and he spotted me coming up the stairs: “You’re Terry Watts’ sone, aren’t you?” Errr, yeah, “He has a lot of white hair!” and then he walked off. 🙂

You’ll also note the comment about TF’s improving the clarity? you should see what he does to everyone’s papers. Sea of red ink.

27. Larry - August 7, 2009

Yep, than makes sence. Forgot you were both at UR. Small physics world.

28. gordonwatts - August 7, 2009

Very, whch is what makes things like this difficult. Everyone knows everyone else, so it can get personal all too quickly.

29. Larry - August 7, 2009

Yep understood. Although I laughed with your original TF greeting story – that is considered social for the B&L building.

Just trying to drum up some attention as Belgiums have been so dishonest about mentioning the GHK team to let the Nobel math work and not draw notice that the GHK piece (which is certainly the best of the three) is most troublesome.

We will see how it plays out.

30. Larry - September 15, 2009

Probably to late. I fear a BEH award will come on 10/06/2009. The Europeans have been able to coordinate and exert their influence over a long period of time (see t’Hooft, Veltman, James Gillies, BE, H). With B on his last leg the committee may not wait for the discovery and ensure these folks get GHK is most likely snubbed in the history books. Too bad as they had the most complete solution.

31. Gordon Watts - September 15, 2009

I’m not sure – each new result out of the USA seems to caste more and more of a shadow on this whole thing – the SM + Higgs mechanism is getting more and more squeezed. While I know nothing about the Nobel committee, I’ve not known them in the past to put the cart too far in front of the horse. Also, in my honest opinion, if we are talking a light higgs we are at least 2 years away from seeing a hint (at the Tevatron), and if it is a little more massive than that, then we are 5 years away from a hint. In either case, we are about 5 years away from the usual 5 sigma “observed” standard. But who knows what will happen?

Whatever the case, there is currently no evidence that the Higgs as it is imagined in any of those papers exists other than the indirect evidence. Other models can reproduce the results, however. The committee will have to talk past that – and if they go with the Higgs they will be taking a bet… and if they are wrong.. well, it will reflect for a long time.

So – I’d be more worried that it will take us so long to get to the bottom of this that no one is left around to collect an award for the work they deserve.

So are you basing this guess of what will come on 10/6 on rumors or something more firm?

32. Larry - September 15, 2009


I am predicting based on many conversations and observations that the forces at work have convinced the committee to rush to a prize for BEH. This WSJ article yesterday would also lead me to believe this may be the case (possibly a rare leak from the academy). Hopefully it is just CERN propaganda.


Hope it is not the case but the BEH-team has worked the press and committee (Englert for example places such as Miami physics conferences) to the point where they will make this award while the three are still alive and kicking. Brout is not healthy.

While the argument is strong that the prize should be held until the discovery of the particle, the other 5 prizes associated with the unification of the electric and weak forces depend on this work and would be equally called into doubt if the particle does not show up. This negates the argument to wait for the discovery. So in many respects the committee has already placed some bets – this would just be throwing on one more chip.

I hope they wait but I am fearful they will not and 10/06 award will go to three guys who had an approximation and mean spirit of trying to write history to their benefit – and looks like they may get away with it.

33. Gordon Watts - September 15, 2009

Interesting – thanks for pointing out the article. I was not aware of it. Your point about the other awards is well taken – but I think almost all models that people have considered include the unification – at least, I’m not aware of others. Sure, it is possible.

Well, we will see what happens on the 6th. I guess I will have my lecture written for me by the committee if they do this.

34. Larry - September 30, 2009

Word out of the B&L Bldg is that all six (Guralnik, Hagen, Kibble, Higgs, Brout, Englert) were together awarded the 2010 J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics. Just informed the six and the department today.

This will make a BEH Nobel Award much more difficult – but stranger things have happened.

35. Larry - September 30, 2009

Maybe this news of the 2010 J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics is worth a blog with refence to GG’s paper (link below).

Rochester pride!


36. Larry - September 30, 2009

2010 J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics…”For work in perturbative Quantum Chromodynamics, including applications to problems pivotal to the interpretation of high energy particle collisions.”

37. Larry - October 1, 2009

Correct citation is “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.”

38. Gordon Watts - October 2, 2009

Sorry so long to get back – I’m totally overwhelmed with my classes (quarter system – just starting). I’ve been asking everyone I know if they thought the Nobel was appropriate this year. I’ve not gotten a single yes from any student, post-doc, or professor in the field – it seems like no one things awarding the Nobel this year is appropriate – indeed, at least until their is a discovery of some sort.

39. Larry - October 2, 2009

Interesting. WSJ seems to be the only ones who think it may happen. I am beginning to think author (S. Wang) just went to CERN for a point of view and they gaver their canned BEH statement.

Here is the link from the U of R that announces the award:


40. Gordon Watts - October 2, 2009

many of the people i asked were at cern or in europe… we’ll see…

41. Larry - October 2, 2009

Ok, good to know. Were they theorists?

Here is APS announcement…


42. Joey - October 6, 2009
43. Joey - October 6, 2009
44. Carlos - February 18, 2010

Sakurai Prize videos from YouTube. Higgs did not show.


45. Larry - June 8, 2010
46. Gordon Watts - June 9, 2010

Thanks, Larry, it went well. Too much info, as you might imagine, but it seemed well received. Of course, it is packed full of data in the middle of an LHC conference…

47. Larry - August 5, 2010

Here is an interesting article. Still waiting for blog on this. Article quotes your Dad’s Yale buddy from grad school.

Higgs Fight – this is something


Physicists get political over Higgs
A storm is brewing round the scientists in line to win the Nobel prize for predicting the elusive particle.
Zeeya Merali

With the Higgs likely to emerge in the next few years, speculation over who to credit is rife.Maximilien Brice / CERNIt hasn’t even been found yet, but the elusive Higgs particle is already generating controversy. As feelings run high over a recent conference in France, the particle physics community are split over who should get credit out of the six theoretical physicists who developed the mechanism behind its existence.

The Higgs particle is predicted to exist as part of the mechanism believed to give particles their mass, and is the only piece of the Standard Model of particle physics that remains to be discovered. Physicists at both the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Europe’s premier particle physics laboratory near Geneva in Switzerland, and the Tevatron accelerator in Batavia, Illinois, recently voiced their expectation that the particle could well be detected within the next few years.

This gave new urgency not only to the race to find the particle, but also to establishing authorship of the ideas behind it. As John Ellis, a particle physicist based at CERN, acknowledges: “Let’s face it, a Nobel prize is at stake.”

The authorship question is fraught because the mechanism was developed independently by three groups within a matter of weeks in 1964. First up were Robert Brout and François Englert in Belgium, followed by Peter Higgs in Scotland, and finally Tom Kibble in London, along with his colleagues in the United States, Gerald Guralnik (at the time in London) and Carl R. Hagen.

“There are six people who developed the mechanism in quick succession and who hold a legitimate claim to credit for it,” says particle physicist Frank Close at the University of Oxford, UK.

Because the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences can award Nobel prizes to no more than three people, that leaves six men in contention for half as many places, should the particle make an appearance.

“The first three in the Nobel queue probably feel quite relaxed — all they have to do is stay alive until the particle is discovered,” says Ellis. “The ones just behind them may understandably be quite nervous.”

Stoking the fire
The credit controversy was re-ignited by an advertisement for the “Higgs Hunting” meeting that took place in Orsay, France, last week. Many particle physicists took exception to the fact that the meeting’s advertisement on the web credited only Brout, Englert and Higgs, with some threatening to either boycott the meeting or formally protest while there, says Daniel Ferrante, a physicist at Syracuse University in New York and a former student of Guralnik’s.

One of the meeting’s organizers, Gregorio Bernardi at the Laboratory of Nuclear and High Energy Physics in Paris, admits that the committee was surprised by the strength of objections levelled at the web advertisement. “People took this very seriously, which we didn’t expect,” he says.

However, the committee felt that the meeting should not be politicized. “We were not happy that we were lobbied very strongly to change our ad — it was not appropriate,” Bernardi says.

Ellis advised the committee to stick to their guns, arguing that it is undeniable that Guralnik, Hagen and Kibble were the last to publish. He also notes that their paper cited the earlier publications by Brout and Englert, and by Higgs, weakening their authorship claim.

That argument carries little weight with particle physicist Tom Ferbel at the University of Rochester in New York, who says that Guralnik, Hagen and Kibble should not be penalized for citing other papers out of professional courtesy.

Ferbel also notes that, earlier this year, the American Physical Society decided to award all six men the J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics, making the snub by the conference organizers “insulting” and “chilling”. “I do fear that the myopic views of the organizers could definitely impact the decisions of the Swedish Academy,” Ferbel says.

The conference organizers acknowledged that their choice was controversial by inviting a special talk on the tangled history of the mechanism, providing a forum for disgruntled conference participants to debate the matter. However, although the meeting ultimately ran smoothly, it seems likely that arguments over this issue will become more heated now that the Higgs particle is perceived to be within reach.

“There is a lot of fuss being made about Guralnik, Hagen and Kibble right now, and the American physics community seems to be listening,” says Ellis. “I’m just glad that I’m not on the Nobel committee deciding who to throw out of the lifeboat.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: