How the ‘God Particle’ Ruined the Life of the Physicist Who Discovered It – 6/27/2022

2013 Nobel Prize Winner in Physicsthe British physicist Peter Higgs, 93, is in history for having made – along with the Belgian François Englet – one of the most important discoveries in science, the Higgs boson, also known as the “God particle”.

Theoretically first proposed by Higgs in 1964, the “God particle” got its name because it would be omnipresent, that is, it would be everywhere. And, in fact, it is, because the proof in practice took place on July 4, 2012, which earned Higgs the Nobel.

Despite having revolutionized part of the theoretical thinking of Physics, Higgs considered that the spotlight that has surrounded him since the Nobel is something that ruined his own life. This is what physicist Frank Close, author of the work “Elusive: How Peter Higgs Solved the Mystery of Mass” (“Misleading: How Peter Higgs Solved the Mass Mystery”, in free translation), released in 2022. The book tells the story of the physicist and his theory.

“One of the biggest shocks I had when interviewing him was when he said that the boson discovery ‘ruined [sua] life’. He spoke: ‘My relatively peaceful existence was ending. My style is to work in isolation and occasionally come up with a brilliant idea,'” Close said in an interview with Scientific American.

According to Close, when he won the Nobel, Higgs was “retired”, but at the same time being a person “pushed into the spotlight”. And that bothers him to this day.

The Nobel Prize, says Close, made Higgs leave his home in urban Edinburgh, Scotland, and move to a country estate in the countryside. This happened on the same day as the Nobel announcement so no one could bother him.

For Close, the award-winning physicist took this step because he was always averse to the spotlight. His theory about the “particular of God”, even, was viewed with disdain by the physicist himself for having been the “only thing” important throughout his career.

The physicist who biographer Higgs, however, considers that, if the Briton had only one idea throughout his academic career, this discovery “was really brilliant”. He also rules out that the “God particle” can be reduced to luck.

“It’s easy to dismiss him as lucky, and clearly luck was part of it. But being in the right place at the right time, you have to recognize it. Higgs spent two or three years really trying to understand a specific problem.”

Proof of ‘God Particle’ Caused Relief

According to theories of physics, the Higgs boson is a subatomic particle considered one of the basic raw materials for the creation of the universe.

Unlike atoms, made of mass, Higgs particles would not have any element in their composition. They are important because they support one of the most accepted theories about the universe – the Standard Model, which explains how other particles gained mass. According to this thesis, the universe cooled down after the Big Bang, when an invisible force, known as the Higgs Field, formed together with associated particles, the Higgs Bosons, transferring mass to other fundamental particles.

Even with all their theoretically grounded framework, Higgs and Englert still needed to prove it in practice. This happened in 2012, when the work was finally proven in experiments carried out in the gigantic collider at CERN (European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN).

Close reveals in his book that Higgs felt relieved with discovery in the practice of his theory, but at the same time he felt distressed that his life would change from then on.

“He told me that his first reaction was relief that it had indeed been confirmed. In that moment, he knew that [a partícula existia] after all, and felt a deep sense of being thrilled that it was really so in nature – and then panicked that his life would change,” Close concluded.

Who is Peter Higgs?

The British Higgs was born on May 29, 1929 in Newcastle, the son of a sound engineer who worked on the British public television channel “BBC”. In 1950, Higgs graduated in Physics with the best record at King’s College London and four years later became a doctor with a thesis entitled “Some Problems in the Theory of Molecular Vibrations”.

With the exception of four years in London, the physicist spent his entire career at the Scottish University of Edinburgh, where he was appointed Professor of Mathematical Physics in 1960, Professor of Theoretical Physics in 1980, and where he is still Professor Emeritus.

In 1964, Higgs first put his theory about the existence of a particle or boson in a brief one-sheet paper that, as he recalled on a visit last year to Barcelona, ​​was rejected by a scientific journal.

After that, a second, broader version was published, in which Higgs developed the idea that particles had no mass at the beginning of the Universe and that they acquired it a fraction of a second later as a result of interacting with a theoretical field, now known as the “Higgs field”.

*With information from the AFP, Efe and Reuters agencies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Never miss any important news. Subscribe to our newsletter.