“In CERN here, most all of the physicists I know, about 95 percent, expected those two would win it. The question was if there would be a third and who it would be,” said Joe Incandela, a professor of physics at the University of California at Santa Barbara and leader of the CMS experiment, one of the two groups that discovered the Higgs particle.
Before the announcement, there had been questions over whether a group of American scientists who published a paper shortly after Higgs would also be honored, or whether any of the thousands of scientists at CERN would share in the prize, too.
But that would have been a tricky decision for the judges, since each Nobel Prize can go to only three winners.
Ulf Danielsson, a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the physics prize, noted that the prize citation also honored the work done at CERN.
“This is a giant discovery. It means the final building block in the so-called Standard Model for particle physics has been put in place, so it marks a milestone in the history of physics,” Danielsson said.
The two winners will share a prize worth 8 million Swedish kronor ($1.2 million). The Nobel Prizes, established by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, have been given out since 1901.
CERN Director General Rolf Heuer said he was thrilled for Higgs and Englert, while many of the thousands of scientists who worked there broke into applause when the announcement was made after an unusual — and unexplained — one-hour delay. (It could be a while before the world finds out the reason for the delay, because the academy’s deliberations are kept secret for 50 years.)
Englert and Higgs were trying to provide an answer to a riddle: How did matter form soon after the Big Bang?