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Peter Higgs, a Giant of Particle Physics, Dies at 94

by Green Zak
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Peter Higgs, a Giant of Particle Physics, Dies at 94

The Nobel Prize-winning theorist’s prediction of the Higgs boson sparked a half-century quest of discovery that reshaped physics—and our understanding of the universe

Portrait of Peter Higgs in blue shirt and glasses both hands and apart.

Colleagues bear in mind Peter Higgs as an inspirational scientist, who remained humble regardless of his fame.

Colin McPherson/Corbis through Getty Images

Few scientists have loved as a lot fame lately as British theoretical physicist Peter Higgs, the namesake of the boson that was found in 2012, who died on 8 April, aged 94.

It was 60 years in the past when Higgs first recommended how an elementary particle of bizarre properties might pervade the universe within the type of an invisible discipline, giving different elementary particles their lots. Several different physicists independently considered this mechanism across the identical time, together with François Englert, now on the Free University of Brussels. The particle was an important ingredient of the theoretical edifice that physicists have been constructing in these years, which later turned often known as the usual mannequin of particles and fields.

Two separate experiments on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) close to Geneva, Switzerland — ATLAS and the CMS — confirmed Higgs’ predictions once they introduced the invention of the Higgs boson half a century later. It was the final lacking element of the usual mannequin, and Higgs and Englert shared a Nobel Prize in 2013 for predicting its existence. Physicists on the LHC proceed to study in regards to the properties of the Higgs boson, however some researchers say that solely a devoted collider that may produce the particle in copious quantities — dubbed a ‘Higgs manufacturing facility’ — will allow them to realize a profound understanding of its position.

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Inspiring determine

“Besides his excellent contributions to particle physics, Peter was a really particular individual, an immensely inspiring determine for physicists all over the world, a person of uncommon modesty, a fantastic trainer and somebody who defined physics in a quite simple but profound method,” mentioned Fabiola Gianotti, director-general of CERN in an obituary posted on the group’s web site; Gianotti who introduced the Higgs boson’s discovery to the world at CERN. “I’m very saddened, and I’ll miss him sorely.”

Many physicists took to X, previously Twitter, to pay tribute to Higgs and share their favorite reminiscences of him. “RIP to Peter Higgs. The seek for the Higgs boson was my main focus for the primary a part of my profession. He was a really humble man that contributed one thing immensely deep to our understanding of the universe,” posted Kyle Cranmer, physicist on the University of Wisconsin Madison and beforehand a senior member of the Higgs search staff on the CMS.

I used to be lucky to fulfill Peter Higgs in 2013 (days after the Nobel prize announcement). He was modest as he instructed a gaggle of PhD college students the historical past of the boson principle. Afterwards, I used to be very fortunate to get my copy of the New York Times with the invention signed by him,” mentioned Clara Nellist, a physicist on the University of Amsterdam and a member of the ATLAS particle-discovery collaboration.

A profession spotlight was serving to Peter right into a cab after the Collider exhibition launch @sciencemuseum in 2013 with a provider bag of special-edition beer marking his latest Nobel,” posted Harry Cliff, a physicist on the University of Cambridge, UK.

“He disliked the limelight however was snug with mates and colleagues,” Frank Close, a physicist on the University of Oxford, UK, and writer of the ebook Elusive: How Peter Higgs Solved the Mystery of Mass (2022), mentioned in a press release to the UK Science Media Centre. “His boson took 48 years to look, and when the Nobel was introduced, he had disappeared to his favorite sea meals bar in Leith.”

An thrilling journey

Higgs’ work continues to be of elementary significance, mentioned physicist Sinead Farrington on the University of Edinburgh. “We’re nonetheless on an thrilling journey to determine whether or not some additional predictions are true, specifically whether or not the Higgs boson interacts with itself within the predicted method, and whether or not it would decay to different past the Standard Model particles,” she instructed the Science Media Centre.

For physicist and science author Matt Strassler, Higgs’ dying represents ‘the tip of an period’. “Higgs was a lucky scientist: he lived to see his perception at age 30 flip up in experiments 50 years later,” he posted on X. “His position and affect in our understanding of the #universe shall be remembered for millennia.”

This article is reproduced with permission and was first revealed on April 10, 2024.

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