As the Large Hadron and the Tevatron Colliders compete to find the suspected mass-giving particle known as the Higgs boson, another competition has already begun: who should get credit when/if they find it? Six physicists came up with the theoretical mechanism to describe how the boson would work, but the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences can only split a Nobel Prize three ways.
Here are the contenders: Robert Brout and François Englert in Belgium, Peter Higgs in Scotland, and Tom Kibble in London with Gerald Guralnik and Carl R. Hagen in the United States. Each group published their papers at almost the same time (all in 1964) and devised their descriptions independently.
As Nature News reports, the debate arose after a web advertisement for a meeting last week on the Higgs mentioned only Brout, Englert, and Higgs. Though Kibble, Guralnik, and Hagen were last to publish and cited the other physicists’ papers, the three recently shared an American Physical Society award with the other trio in part for the describing the boson’s mass-giving technique: the so-called Englert-Brout-Higgs-Guralnik-Hagen-Kibble mechanism.
Given that the Nobel also can’t be awarded posthumously, that may leave something else for the six to consider, CERN physicist John Ellis said to Nature News:
“The first three in the Nobel queue probably feel quite relaxed—all they have to do is stay alive until the the particle is discovered…. The ones just behind them may understandably be quite nervous.”
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Image:Wikimedia / Winners of the J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics (L to R Kibble, Guralnik, Hagen, Englert, and Brout — Higgs also won but not pictured)