Events of the year: Nobel Prize in 2013
Science is full of famous pairs: Salk and Sabin, Watson and Crick, Orville and Wilbur. We know who they are, we know what they did, we feel incomplete saying the name of one without the other. But Higgs and Englert? Not so much, at least not until today, when the two were awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics. The global applause they’re suddenly enjoying is well past due—49 years past due by some accountings.
It was in 1964 that François Englert, now 80, and Peter Higgs, now 84, effectively saved the universe—if not from destruction then from irrationality. The existence of mass is not a sure thing, even in a cosmos like ours that is so full of gas and dust and what Carl Sagan memorably called stuff. Something must confer mass, giving energetic particles what we think of as solidity. That something, Englert reasoned in a 1964 paper—which…
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