Two Higgs boson scientists tipped for Nobel prize

Two Higgs boson scientists tipped for Nobel prize
Britain's Peter Higgs - after whom the Higgs boson was named.

LONDON - Two scientists who predicted the existence of the Higgs boson - the mysterious particle that explains why elementary matter has mass - are Thomson Reuters' top tips to win this year's Nobel prize in physics.

Recognition for a discovery that made headlines worldwide will come as no surprise, but deciding who deserves the glory is a tricky matter for the prize committee, which will announce its winner or winners on Oct. 8.

The will of Alfred Nobel limits the prize to a maximum of three people. Yet six scientists published relevant papers in 1964, and thousands more have worked to detect the Higgs at the CERN research centre's giant particle-smasher near Geneva.

The consensus is that the award will go to the theoretical physicists whose work has finally been vindicated - and, as Belgium's Robert Brout died in 2011, there are now five contenders. The prize cannot be given posthumously.

Of these, the two likely winners are Britain's Peter Higgs - after whom the particle was named - and Brout's colleague and countryman Francois Englert, according to Thomson Reuters' Nobel prediction expert David Pendlebury.

His predictions are based on how often a scientist's published work is cited by other researchers, and his system has accurately forecast 27 Nobel prize winners since 2002.

Pendlebury believes Higgs, 84, and Englert, 80, are the logical winners this time. Although Brout and Englert were first to publish in 1964, Higgs was second and he was also the first person to explicitly predict the existence of a new particle.

Similar proposals from American researchers Carl Hagen and Gerald Guralnik and Britain's Tom Kibble appeared shortly after, but their papers have garnered fewer citations over the years.

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