Gerald Guralnik, Chancellor's Professor of Physics at Brown University, and part of the 1964 paper that discovered the Higgs boson, expresses disappointment over not being one of the winners of the Nobel physics prize.
STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN (OCTOBER 8, 2013) (REUTERS) - Britain's Peter Higgs and Francois Englert of Belgium won the Nobel Prize for physics on Tuesday (October 8) for predicting the existence of the Higgs boson particle that explains how elementary matter attained the mass to form stars and planets.
However, it was a bittersweet victory for Gerald Guralnik, Chancellor's Professor of Physics at Brown University who was part of the Higgs boson discovery process back in 1964.
"I think it's great they (Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences) recognize the work," said Guralnik. "As for me, personally, I'm delighted that I played a major role in this. I would be misrepresenting the situation if I don't feel, if I said I didn't feel a little bit stung but what's happened but it was not entirely unsuspected."
The insight has been hailed as one of the most important in the understanding of the cosmos. Without the Higgs mechanism all particles would travel at the speed of light and atoms would not exist.
Half a century after the scientists' original prediction, the new building block of nature was finally detected in 2012 at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) center's giant, underground particle-smasher near Geneva.
Guralnik, a theoretical physicist at Brown University and five other scientists in the U.S. and Europe published their research in Physical Review Letters nearly fifty years ago but the group disbanded soon after.
"The 1964 work represents a whole new kind of solution from anything that people were looking at perviously. And the question that I'm looking at now the question of just exactly how many solutions exist to this type of equation? It's a very, very hard question. It's a very interesting problem, it's very abstract at this time but given our experience, it's quite possible that other solutions correspond to physical reality."
The Higgs boson is the last piece of the Standard Model of physics that describes the fundamental make-up of the universe. Some commentators - though not scientists - have called it the "God particle", for its role in turning the Big Bang into an ordered cosmos.
Higgs' and Englert's work shows how elementary particles inside atoms gain mass by interacting with an invisible field pervading all of space - and the more they interact, the heavier they become. The particle associated with the field is the Higgs boson.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the prize went to Higgs and Englert for work fundamental to describing how the universe is constructed.