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Lancaster scientists helped Nobel Prize winning discovery

Story supplied by LU Press Office

Peter Higgs visiting the ATLAS experiment at CERN; image courtesy of CERN Peter Higgs visiting the ATLAS experiment at CERN; image courtesy of CERN

Lancaster University physicists have welcomed the award of the Nobel Prize in Physics to Peter Higgs and Francois Englert.

This award follows the discovery of the Higgs Boson in 2012 by researchers from Lancaster University along with their collaborators on the ATLAS experiment, and the CMS experiment, both at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Geneva.

Professor Roger Jones, head of the Lancaster ATLAS team, said, "This award is truly well deserved; when proposed, the Higgs mechanism seemed like a very contrived way to save an otherwise incredibly successful theory, the Standard Model of particle physics. Now that we have discovered the particle Higgs predicted, their prescience seems uncanny."

For decades Lancaster physicists from PhD students to senior researchers have played a significant part in the experiments hunting down the Higgs Boson.

Sifting through the vast amounts of data generated by the particle detector at CERN, the Lancaster team was part of the international effort to find proof of the existence of the Higgs - a particle which holds the key to why objects have mass.

This discovery came some 47 years after Peter Higgs and others proposed the mechanism by which fundamental particles have mass (loosely "weight"). It was Higgs that predicted that if the theory was correct, there should be an associated particle with unusual properties.

Unfortunately, the theory did not predict the mass of the new particle, and this started the long search that concluded on July 4 2012.

Dr Harald Fox, who works directly on the Higgs searches said, "The more we study the new object the more like the predicted particle it seems. It seems safe to say it plays the role expected; but it could be part of a bigger and more natural picture. Our own search for its predicted decays to tau leptons might reveal part of that picture."

Dr Katy Grimm, a research associate who works with Dr Fox said, "It is great to be around at one if those significant moments in physics, and to be able to play a part in these developments."

Tue 08 October 2013