According to an incognito ATLAS member who spoke to Nature, they have a discovery without any doubts. Pure elation that will culminate on Wednesday morning.
TRF recommends you to buy up to 180 Higgs shares per $6.99; you will be given $10 for each at the end of the year, thus making a $540 profit. A chance for John Ramsden to earn the money for his $500 bet against me.
François Englert of Brussels is one of the few (or two?) guys whose Nobel prize should be pretty much guaranteed once the discovery of the God particle becomes official, assuming he is very careful about his health.
In 1964, before all the well-known papers written by Peter Higgs were released, he published a paper with Robert Brout – who unfortunately died in May 2011 – in which the foundations of the Higgs/BEH/God mechanism were built.
He's actually the only guy whose position next to Peter Higgs should be a pretty much sure thing – I hope (and I believe based on the interactions with the kind of people who should matter) – although the later contributions by Guralnik, Hagen, and Kibble were made independently.
There are of course other people tightly incorporated into this story – including Landau, Nambu, Andersson, and Weinberg who already got his prize mainly for the implementation of the God mechanism in the Standard Model (all these four men are already winners and the first one is dead) – but I don't want to review this complex history in this article again.
Instead, I want to look at one person and his position in the scheme of things.
I've shared a Santa Barbara office with Peter Higgs, I like him, I find him pleasant, charismatic, and fair when it comes to his description of his contributions to the God particle. I appreciate that he's actually the only one in the 1964 group who actively noticed and promoted the existence of the new particle itself and not just the other aspects of the God mechanism.
Well, I am not so sure whether the God particle is actually more important than the rest of the God mechanism, however, so I don't think that the previous sentence is necessarily too important.
Nevertheless, I would probably still say that the overall contributions of François Englert to high-energy physics exceeded those of Peter Higgs (and he is much more broad and educated in the advanced stuff) – and believe me, I have absolutely nothing against one-hit wonders (who are spiritual fathers of a rather significant percentage of the mankind's intellectual wealth). And I am actually inclined to believe that most of the active particle physicists would agree. The citation counts – around 5,000+ in both cases – are comparable. Englert wrote 87 papers listed in the SPIRES database, slightly more than 11 papers by Higgs.
Given these facts, you must find it somewhat incredible that while Google News counts 500+ hits for Peter Higgs in the recent 30 days, the same number for François Englert is 0 hits or 1 hit. You know, these numbers should be comparable.
It's kind of shocking. To say the least, it is another piece of evidence suggesting that a vast majority of the science journalists who are currently active are superficial slackers who just copy stuff from each other, including all the inaccuracies, distortions, intolerable oversimplifications, stupidities, and lies. This lousy culture is later imprinted into the whole population so as a species, we may perhaps boast that we're probably better than skunks but we still kind of suck and the inkspillers in the media are an important component of this fellatio.
This is not a scientific world. It is not being fairly informed about the progress in science and not even about the credits – even when it comes to the most important issues.
Englert's 2005 talk on Gravity, Geometry, and Group Theory (GGGT) at Yuvalfest. I was amused e.g. by his passionate defense of 11D supergravity against its boss M-theory around 39:30. Lots of exceptional groups, black hole entropy, and other cool stuff was discussed in the talk.
At any rate, I am confident that the physicists behind the Nobel committee are not that uninformed and Englert will share the physics Nobel prize for the theoretical foundations underlying the God mechanism. Let me assume it is so. In that case, Englert would join the triplet of the best string theorists among the physics Nobel prize winners, together with David Gross and Yoichiro Nambu. Aside from these three full-fledged string theorists, at least 4 other physics Nobel prize winners should be counted as members of a broader community of string theorists (all of them have taught the subject, for example, and wrote some papers referring to string theory), including Steven Weinberg, Murray Gell-Mann, Gerard 't Hooft, and George Smoot.
If you estimate the number of people in the world who are as close to string theory as those guys to be 2,000, it's easy to see that the probability for a string theorist in that group to get a physics Nobel prize is 0.35%. You should better not eliminate any of those people. ;-)
To compare, the remaining 7 billion people include about 200 physics Nobel prize winners: their chance is about 100,000 times lower than that of string theorists. This deviation by five orders of magnitude exists despite the fact that Nobel prizes are not being distributed for as important things as string theory because the discoveries that are rewarded are obliged to remotely resemble the dynamite. The Hawking radiation and string theory refuse to do so.
Let me return to François Englert. Aside from his 1,500+ citation paper with Brout, he wrote a couple of other well-known papers. For example, these seven papers gained over 100 citations. One of them is about the birth of the Universe, one of them is about monopoles, but all the others are about strings and supergravity. Aside from these subjects, i.e. cosmology, QFT, string theory, and SUGRA, Englert has worked – much like many people in the French-speaking theoretical physics community – on problems in statistical physics.
Getting the superstring out of the 26-dimensional bosonic string theory is interesting and immensely intriguing – something that may clarify the role of the bosonic "toy model" in the actual fully consistent landscape of string theory – except I am not sure whether those things in the 1980s were quite right. More recently, Swanson and Hellerman were among those who tried to link string theories with different numbers of world sheet degrees of freedom in a more modern, controllable way and the chances that their time-independent interpolating solutions did it right was much higher. I am still not 100% sure whether I believe that it shows that the bosonic string theory is a part of the "real structure".
In 1997, Englert co-authored a paper about an interesting and geometrically cute topic, the intersection rules for \(p\)-branes. I could mention several such papers. Englert remained very active, even in very recent years.
But there's one paper that I already read as an undergrad: his construction of new seven-sphere compactifications of eleven-dimensional supergravity which preserve a smaller group than the obvious isometry group, \(SO(8)\). The solution is linked to octonions: the multiplication table is imprinted to the 3-form potential and its Hodge dual is encoded in the 4-form field strength. For a non-supersymmetric solution of a supersymmetric theory, it is a very cute one. There is one more solution like that in the paper. I've learned about these things a decade before I learned about the \(G_2\) holonomy manifolds – in which the octonionic structure also plays a role although the role is not equivalent to Englert's solution.
I have no problem with using the word "Higgs boson" and even "Higgs mechanism" etc. It is catchy, efficient, and it has a true core. But if someone omitted François Englert from the hypothetical Nobel prize that Peter Higgs will be getting, I would consider it a victory of the idiocratic, badly informed culture spread by the sloppy media and their undemanding consumers, culture that always prefers hype and group think over the truth. And that would be very bad because I do think that the physics Nobel prize is one of the last awards that haven't been discredited by stunning blunders such as Gores and Arafats.
And that's the memo.
When I am talking about the French-speaking people, let me mention that France's AREVA is one of the three competitors – besides Russians and Americans – who want to expand the Temelín nuclear power plant in Southern Czechia. The picture above is their sketch: pretty. Under huge security measures, the nuclear contest started today.