The elusive Higgs surfaces! Prof Higgs that is. 'God particle' physicist in rare interview

Peter Higgs is a living legend in physics who could soon earn a permanent place in the pantheon when they find his lost subatomic particle. Watch him discuss rejection and 50 years on boson trail.
Written by Mark Halper, Contributor
Dr. Higgs I presume? 

He's not quite as elusive as the sub-atomic particle that bears his name, but 82-year-old professor Peter Higgs rarely meets the press. So it's worth pointing out that a certain theoretical physicist has popped up in a BBC video interview.

Dr. Higgs you presume?

Yes indeed.

Nearly 50 years after postulating the existence of a "boson" so important that people call it the "God particle," Higgs appears briefly in front of a camera discussing his eponymous tidbit which supposedly gives mass to matter. Theorists describe the Higgs boson (a boson is a type of subatomic particle) as the capstone that binds together gravity, electromagnetism and nuclear forces in the Standard Model of Physics. It also helps flesh out the Big Bang theory of the origins of the universe.

No one has yet spotted it, but researchers at the CERN laboratory in Geneva announced late last year that they're zeroing in. They've been bashing protons together in their Large Hadron Collider in an effort to tease out the Higgs morsel. They're even ramping up the energy in the LHC (a "hadron" is certain type of subatomic particle, of which protons and neutrons are the most common) to increase their chances of finding the boson before the machine shuts down for 20 months of maintenance later this year.

That seems to have rightfully excited Higgs. In the understated BBC interview, his enthusiasm comes through in the twinkle of an eye rather than in jumping up and down. You can watch the interview here (we're unable to embed the video, although we've reached into the vaults for an older piece below).

"This is something I've lived with for a very long time," says Higgs.  "It's now nearly 48 years since I did this work in 1964."

He doesn't say a whole lot more in the 2-minute strand, but we get a glimpse of a physics living legend who, as the BBC notes, "rarely gives interviews."

In fact, anyone who has ever suffered from a professional snub (who hasn't?) might find a kindred spirit when watching Higgs as he says that his idea was something "I actually pointed out in an added paragraph to a paper which in its first version had been rejected."

Higgs is Emeritus Professor at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He gave the interview after receiving the 2011 Edinburgh Award, bestowed on individuals who bring prominence to the city.

Proper press and TV interviews with Higgs might be rare, but he hasn't been completely camera shy over the years. Towards the beginning of the 10-minute CERN production from 2007 embedded below, he confesses to being a crummy experimentalist (his skills are theoretical). And about two minutes in, he shares credit for his theory with other physicists:

Now that the professor has edged into the limelight, the world awaits the appearance of his would-be co-star. The boson itself is still in the dressing room, but by many accounts, it will debut before this year ends.

Credit for black & white photo: Peter Tuffy via the University of Edinburgh.

Big little bosons on SmartPlanet:

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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