Francois Englert and Peter Higgs, the latter of whom is the namesake of the recently discovered Higgs boson, are the 2013 winners of the , announced this morning. "This year's prize is about something very small that makes all the difference," said Staffan Normark, who announced the winners.
When he says small, he means very, very small. The Higgs boson is a subatomic particle that explains why some particles acquire mass. Englert and Higgs published studies theorizing the particle's existence within weeks of each other in 1964, but the idea remained merely theoretical for nearly 50 years. The Higgs boson was then nicknamed the "God Particle" because without it, atoms, stars, and people couldn't exist (though Higgs himself dislikes the religious moniker).
The Higgs boson became a decades-long subatomic manhunt. It wasn't until the construction of CERN's Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest and most powerful particle accelerator, that scientists were able to finally confirm Englert and Higgs' theory. ATLAS and CMS, two experiments conducted at the collider, verified the Higgs boson's existence in July last year.
Before the discovery, many the scientific world doubted the Higgs' existence. Even Stephen Hawking bet $100 saying it would never be found. But once the LHC finally made the big find, Englert and Higgs became the favorites to win physics' top prize, and a cool $1.25 million, which Englert and Higgs have agreed to split.
"I am overwhelmed to receive this award," said Higgs in a prepared statement. "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."
Yesterday, three U.S.-based scientists won the Nobel Prize for Medicine with research in cell transport. The Nobel Prize for Chemistry will be announced tomorrow morning.