The British scientist who gave his name to the Higgs boson particle spoke Friday of his delight after researchers affirmed its existence, saying it was “nice to be right sometimes”.
Professor Peter Higgs was making his first detailed public comments since researchers at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced Wednesday they believe they have found the sub-atomic particle thought to confer mass on matter.
The announcement came following nearly 50 years of research after Higgs published the conceptual groundwork for the elusive boson, dubbed the “God particle” because it is powerful and everywhere in 1964.
Asked at a press conference at Edinburgh University if he now felt a sense of vindication, Higgs said: “It’s very nice to be right sometimes… it has certainly been a long wait.”
The 83-year-old also brushed off suggestions he would now be in the running for a Nobel Prize as a result of the discovery.
“I don’t know, I don’t have close friends on the Nobel committee,” he said, when questioned about an honour which academics including Professor Stephen Hawking have suggested he should receive.
He also declined to comment on whether those awarding the Nobel Prize should change its rules so that more than three people can share the award.
This would allow the committee to recognise his work alongside that of the five others with whom he worked most closely on his research.
“It remains for the Nobel committee if they are interested in this result to see if they really have a problem,” Higgs said.
Later, Higgs’s friend and colleague Alan Walker recounted the low-key celebration they held after learning of the breakthrough, one of the most important scientific discoveries of recent years.
Walker said he and Higgs were flying home from CERN in Geneva this week on budget airline easyJet when he offered Higgs a glass of Prosecco sparkling wine so they could toast the discovery.
Higgs replied: “‘I’d rather have a beer’ and popped a can of London Pride,” Walker said.
Higgs added that he has not contributed to theoretical physics since the mid-1980s, when he became “too old”.
“I couldn’t, at that age, acquire sufficient new mathematical skills which were needed to contribute, so I stopped,” he said.
Asked what he was going to do next, Higgs told reporters he was simply looking forward to continuing his retirement.
“The only problem, I think, will be that I shall have to dodge the press,” he quipped.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh University, where he is Emeritus Professor of Physics, announced Friday that it was naming a new centre for theoretical physics after Higgs.
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