Physics Nobel Betting

I’m back in circulation just in time for tomorrow’s announcement of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Physics. The smart money is going on an award for the discovery of the Higgs Boson, but to whom should it be awarded. Today’s Grauniad summarizes the difficulties thus:

The committee can contrive the wording of the prize to narrow the number downwards and this is likely to happen. The prize could go to François Englert, who published the idea first, and Peter Higgs, who was second, but crucially was first to flag up the new particle. But that would rebuff the trio of Gerald Guralnik, Carl Richard Hagen and Tom Kibble, who developed the theory separately and published just a month after Higgs. The possibility has already caused acrimony among the scientists. Guralnik and Hagen, two US researchers, believe European physicists have conspired to erase their contribution from history.

This doesn’t seem to me to be entirely accurate, though. As far as I understand it, Higgs was the only one of the names above to mention a massive scalar particle, There is, I believe, therefore a strong case that the Nobel Prize should be awarded to Peter Higgs outright. Or if not to him, to some other person called Peter who was born in the North East…

However, I am used to being in a minority of one so there will undoubtedly be many others who feel differently.  Time for a poll! This one is different from my usual ones, in that you are allowed to vote more than once. Please use up to three votes: if you think Peter Higgs should win it outright vote three times for him. If you think it should be a three way split then vote for three different people, etc.

I should say that I don’t think the Nobel Committee for Physics is allowed to make an award to an institution such as CERN, but I’ve left that option in to see whether folks think that tradition should change..

UPDATE: Here are the Thomson-Reuters predictions, including Marcy, Mayor and Queloz for Extra Solar Planets…


13 Responses to “Physics Nobel Betting”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    I voted for Higgs plus CERN, and would hope that it is awarded to Higgs plus the scientific leader of the team that found it. Given Higgs’ age there is good reason not to delay recognition of this achievement.

    • telescoper Says:

      An alternative to this is to award the prize to Higgs outright, but in honour of the experimentalists, to print the citation using Comic Sans

  2. […] we will know soon enough. If you want to entertain yourselves meanwhile, you could try Telescoper’s Poll. Or you could watch Frank Close’s wonderful seminar, which is the clearest explanation I have […]

  3. I think Higgs for certain, and very likely Englert. The interesting question is: Kibble or not? It’s not unheard of to award the senior person and pass over the junior people (e.g., the CP non conservation paper was written by Christensen, Cronin, Fitch and Turlay; only Cronin and Fitch won. I’m not agreeing with this policy, only pointing out historical precedent.) The third slot might well go to CERN, but this would, I think, be the first time that both theory and experiment were jointly honored in the same prize. For example, the experiment which established parity non conservation (C. S. Wu and E. J. Konopinsky) was ignored, while the interpretation by T. T. Lee and C. N. Yang won. Why Wu was denied, I cannot say, unless it was the crudest misogyny. And there could be a complete surprise for the third slot, or indeed for the prize itself. After Moriond, and recognizing that the LHC is shut down for at least a couple of years, not to give it to Higgs (and in my opinion, also Englert) borders on cruelty: the Prize is not awarded posthumously, and they are 84 and 80 years old respectively. (Disclaimer: I was a PhD student of Higgs’s.)

  4. There’s a website at ULB that seems quite sure who deserves the credit.

  5. Yes, my guess is Higgs + leaders of ATLAS and CMS

  6. The calculation of Higgs Boson was carried out by many without much knowledge of present day astronomy , which is forcing us to change our views about the universe beyond Einstein. Many scientists working with CERN also of the opinion that the universe and atomic theories are much more complex and standard model may be a over simplification .

  7. telescoper Says:

    Apparently William Hill are no longer taking bets on this, so I missed my chance to have a real punt…

  8. Article is a bit wrong. GHK paper had boson and completely showed how Goldstone theorem was avoided (the original problem). BE did not have the boson…so citation really can’t have that in it. GHK boson was massless that gained mass through renormalization.

    Higgs added text around boson after referee review (Nambu) and just said Goldstone theorem “could” fail but not demonstrate its failure. Also the particle spin is not confirmed.

    Guralnik discusses here

    • The original GHK article in Phys Rev Letters states that after the symmetry is broken, there is a *zero mass scalar* which is completely decoupled from the massive excitations. This is, in my opinion, completely wrong; there is no zero mass scalar at all to be found in nature (and the equivalent excitation in Higgs’s model is “eaten” by the vector.)

      If it were up to me, notwithstanding what seems to me an error in the GHK paper, I would split the Nobel credit six ways (including the deceased R. Brout), just as the Sakurai prize was. I’m sorry that the Nobel folks only split Physics three ways, and never award to the dead, but those are their rules. I can imagine Kibble getting a piece of this, but numerically it’s impossible for Higgs, Englert and more than one other person, and politically (and I think scientifically) it’s impossible not to give credit to Higgs and Englert (and Brout). So I don’t see how this ends well for at least two-thirds of GHK.

  9. GHK had zero mass in the model which gained mass through renormalization. The boson is there. But agree that could have been made clearer. Higgs benefits from the clarity of his sentence on the massive boson or scalar. “An important feature…”

    The overall point is the three 1964 PRL papers TOGETHER established the theory. Only awarding some of the work will make this Nobel feel “incomplete” – something nobody should want.

    Again, GG discusses some of these details and compares the papers in this video and explains with BE and H is wrong. I have never seen a video of the others discussing all three papers. So this video is valuable because of the attempt (guts) to do so.

  10. […] A blog about the Universe, and all that surrounds it « Physics Nobel Betting […]

  11. Nobel prize is becoming more political than scientific. Congratulations to all the winners. But there is more to the story in the days to come. Astronomy is challenging quantum physics and the sky will give some hints if CERN fails.

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