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Peter Higgs - Biographical Profile


Peter Higgs - Biographical Profile

Peter Higgs awaits the July 4, 2012, official announcement that CERN has found evidence consistent with the Higgs boson that he predicted in the 1960's.

CERN, copyright 2012

General Information:

Birth Date: May 29, 1929
Birthplace: Wallsend, North Tyneside, England

Education: King's College London, 1950

Awards and Recognition:

  • 1983 - Named fellow of the Royal Society
  • 1984 - Awarded the Rutherford Medal and Prize
  • 1991 - Named fellow of the Institute of Physics
  • 1997 - Dirac Medal and Prize from the Institute of Physics
  • 1997 - High Energy and Particle Physics Prize by the European Physical Society
  • 2004 - Wolf Prize in Physics
  • 2008 - Honorary fellowship from Swansea University
  • 2010 - J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics
  • 2011 - The Edinburgh Award

The Higgs Mechanism:

In the 1960's, theoretical physics was having trouble explaining why certain fundamental particles had any mass at all. Building on hints and approaches developed by others, Peter Higgs put forward a theory in 1964 to explain the way that the fundamental laws of physics could work as expected but still result in the observed mass of fundamental particles. He suggested that there was a quantum field permeating all of space and that mass resulted from disturbances in this field, which is called the "Higgs field."

One of the results of this theory (sometimes also called the "Higgs mechanism") was to propose a new fundamental particle of the universe, the Higgs boson. Unfortunately for efforts to detect the Higgs boson experimentally, the theory doesn't predict a precise mass value (or even a clear mass range) for the Higgs boson. This has forced experimentalists to begin searching through the possible mass ranges and narrow down the possibilities.

Higgs Boson Search:

In the years since its development, the Higgs mechanism has been incorporated as an element of the Standard Model of particle physics, but the Higgs boson has been the most elusive element of the Standard Model to detect experimentally.

The search for the Higgs boson is a major focus of the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland. On July 4, 2012, CERN made an announcement indicating that evidence has been found which strongly suggests they may have located a particle that is consistent with the what is expected to be true about the Higgs boson. Further tests are needed to confirm the interpretation of the data.

Personal Views:

Peter Higgs is an atheist and holds strong political views. He declined accepting an award for his work in Jerusalem, because he felt that it would imply support of Israeli policies in Palestine which he opposed. He supports environmental causes and has opposed nuclear weapon development, though he has broken with some official organizations that support these causes because he does not agree with the full extent of their activism. For example, he supports the use of genetically modified organisms and safe nuclear power.
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