Archive for Tom Kibble

R.I.P. Tom Kibble (1932-2016)

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , on June 2, 2016 by telescoper

Yet again, I find myself having to use this blog pass on some very sad news. Distinguished theoretical physicist Tom Kibble (below) passed away today, at the age of 83.


Sir Thomas Walter Bannerman Kibble FRS (to give his full name) worked on  quantum field theory, especially the interface between high-energy particle physics and cosmology. He has worked on mechanisms ofsymmetry breaking, phase transitions and the topological defects (monopoles, cosmic strings or domain walls) that can be formed in some theories of the early Universe;  he is  probably most famous for introducing the idea of cosmic strings to modern cosmology in a paper with Mark Hindmarsh. Although there isn’t yet any observational support for this idea, it has generated a great deal of very interesting research.

Tom was indeed an extremely distinguished scientist, but what most people will remember best is that he was an absolutely lovely human being. Gently spoken and impeccably courteous, he was always receptive to new ideas and gave enormous support to younger researchers. He will be very sadly missed by friends and colleagues across the physics world.

Rest in peace, Tom Kibble (1932-2016).


Physics Nobel Betting

Posted in Science Politics, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , , on October 7, 2013 by telescoper

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…


A Nobel Book

Posted in Science Politics, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2012 by telescoper

The announcement this morning of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology reminded me that tomorrow will see the announcement of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Physics. This is due to happen tomorrow morning at 11.45 CET (which I think is 10.45 BST) or thereabouts. It would be unseemly to speculate on the outcome, of course, so that’s what I’ll do.

Although the discovery of a scalar particle at the Large Hadron Collider that may well be the Higgs boson happened only recently, and is yet to be definitively proven to be the Higgs, the smart money has to be on an award relating to that, presumably to Peter Higgs. However, given that the award can go to up to three individuals, who else might earn a share? Gerald Guralnik, Tom Kibble and Carl Richard Hagen came up with the same idea about the same time as Higgs, but all four of them can’t win according to the rules. Answers to that little conundrum on a postcard…

But of course the Prize might go to something else altogether. An interesting bet would be Alain Aspect for his important work on experimental studies of quantum entanglement. Also with an outside chance is Sir Michael Berry for his brilliant work on the Geometric Phase.

That’s by no means an exhaustive list of runners and riders, but I have to get back to business now. I’d be interested to have further nominations via the comments box and will of course be getting an early night ahead of the expected phone call from Stockholm tomorrow morning…