I never doubted boson’s existence, says Peter Higgs
London: Peter Higgs has said that he never doubted the existence of the 'God particle' in the 48 years since he proposed its existence.
Speaking two weeks after Cern scientists announced they had discovered a new particle bearing all the characteristics of a Higgs, the retired professor admitted that he had not expected his theory to be vindicated in his lifetime.
But he insisted that he had always remained firmly convinced of the particle’s existence despite initial scepticism within the scientific community.
In his famous 1964 paper, Prof Higgs became the first scientist to propose a new, massive boson particle to explain how fundamental particles – the building blocks of the Universe – get their mass.
The Higgs boson was regarded as the last missing cornerstone of the Standard Model of Physics, a theory which describes how the known particles in the Universe interact with one another, until the announcement by Cern earlier this month which all but confirmed its existence.
“It’s nice to be right sometimes. I didn’t expect it to happen in my lifetime, at the beginning. This changed when the big colliders were built – LEP [the forerunner of the LHC at Cern], the Tevatron [at Fermilab in America] and now the LHC,” the Telegraph quoted him as telling \New Scientist.
On being asked if he ever questioned the theory put forward in his 1964 paper, he answered that he “didn’t really”.
“No, I didn’t really. The Higgs is so crucial for the consistency of the mechanism [through which fundamental particles acquire mass],” he said.
“I had faith in the theory behind the mechanism, as other features of it were being verified in great detail at successive colliders. It would have been very surprising if the remaining piece of the jigsaw wasn’t there,” he said.
At the Cern lab in Geneva two weeks back, Prof Higgs had difficulty holding back tears as researchers revealed findings from the Large Hadron Collider which laid virtually any doubts about his theory to rest.
“During the talks I was still distancing myself from it all, but when the seminar ended, it was like being at a football match when the home team wins...It was like being knocked over by a wave,” he said.
The scale of the discovery turned out to be so huge that Prof Higgs is widely expected to win a Nobel Prize and a knighthood in recognition of his work, and he admitted he expected to suffer from jitters, or “Nobelitis”, in October when this year’s prize winners will be announced.
But the Edinburgh-based scientist added that he hoped people would simply refer to the particle as the “H boson” and not as ‘the God particle’now that it has been found.
Prof Higgs has always professed himself uncomfortable about the attachment of his name to the boson, not least because five other scientists published papers on the same mechanism at the same time as his paper.
“I can’t see how it can continue to be called the Higgs boson. I reckon it will become the H boson,” he said.
“I do sometimes call it the Higgs boson so people know what I’m talking about. I don’t call it ‘the God particle’. I hope that phrase won’t be used as much. I keep telling people that it’s someone else’s joke, not mine,” he added.