Two Higgs boson scientists tipped for Nobel prize

By Ben Hirschler

LONDON (Reuters) - 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 October 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.

There was speculation of a Nobel prize for the Higgs discovery last year, after detection of a boson at CERN in July 2012. But that preliminary data needed to be confirmed, which only happened earlier this year.

"It seems to me that with the confirmation in March of the experimental results at CERN, it is not difficult to make a strong wager that the discovery will be honoured this year," Pendlebury said.

Half a century may seem a long time to wait for a Nobel prize but, as the experimental evidence is only just in, an award next month would actually be speedy by Nobel standards.

The sense of urgency reflects the importance of the finding - the Higgs boson is the last piece of the Standard Model that describes the fundamental make-up of the universe - but also the fact that both Higgs and Englert are now in their 80s.

Other Nobel prizes will be awarded next month for medicine, chemistry and economics, as well as for literature and peace.

Notable Thomson Reuters nominees in the economics arena include Sam Peltzman and Richard Posner of the University of Chicago for their research on theories of regulation.

In medicine, those tipped include Adrian Bird, Howard Cedar and Aharon Razin, from Britain and Israel, for work on a process known as DNA methylation, which helps determine how and when genes in the body are switched on.

Among potential chemistry winners are U.S. scientists M.G. Finn, Valery Fokin and Barry Sharpless for developing so-called "click chemistry", which has applications in diagnostics and in making surface coatings with unusual properties.

Pendlebury's citation-based system predicts outstanding researchers whose work could earn them a Nobel prize either this year or in the future.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

On Now: Chennai vs Punjab

On Now: Chennai vs Punjab

MS Dhoni won the toss and opted to bat at Abu Dhabi. More »

Evenly matched Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

Evenly matched Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

A quality that defines Rajasthan and Hyderabad is consistency. Rajasthan was one among two teams to enjoy complete dominance at home last season. Hyderabad… More »

Beleaguered Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Beleaguered Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj Singh was hardly convincing to begin with against Delhi, but a big dose of crowd support and a helping of poor bowling meant he had the opportunity… More »

Trott to take 'immediate break' from cricket

Trott to take 'immediate break' from cricket

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday confirmed that batsman Jonathan Trott is to take another break from all cricket with immediate eff… More »

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

England all-rounder Ben Stokes admits he must keep his anger under control if he is to end his international exile. More »

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Yuvraj Singh was back to his best in his first match for Royal Challengers Bangalore. More »

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistani cricket authorities have launched an investigation after a number of current international stars played in exhibition matches in the United States… More »

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

The BCCI will hold an emergent working committee meeting on April 20 to discuss the future course of action with regard to the Supreme Court hearing concerning… More »

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

"Integrity is non-negotiable..." says the BCCI's interim chief ahead of Season 7 of the tainted league. More »

Kallis, Narine star in KKR win

Kallis, Narine star in KKR win

An all-round display saw Knight Riders thump Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in the IPL-7 opener. More »

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

The 38-year-old South African veteran turned it on for Kolkata Knight RIders in the opening match of IPL-7. More »

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Chennai have an emphatic 8-3 lead in the head-to-head with Punjab, with one game tied More »

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

The court emphasised that the tainted administrator can no longer work for the BCCI. More »

Yuvraj happy to play for RCB: Kohli

Yuvraj happy to play for RCB: Kohli

New-look RCB will play their first game of IPL-7 on Thursday. More »

IPL: News Line

IPL: News Line

A round-up of all the news from this season of the IPL. More »

Shane Watson issues moral warning

Shane Watson issues moral warning

'Everyone knows what is right and what is wrong and if you do the wrong thing it will be found out' More »

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Welcome to another season of a league that many watch but few trust. More »

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Australia's Mitchell Johnson may quit limited-overs cricket to prolong his test career with an eye on the 2015 Ashes series in England, the fast bowler… More »

Nepal players call off boycott

Nepal players call off boycott

Thaw in relations after formation of an advisory committee that would work in tandem with the Cricket Association of Nepal. More »

There's a lot going on: Fleming

There's a lot going on: Fleming

He experienced anxious moments in the lead-up to the tournament as the courts decided on whether to suspend the franchise, he said, but stressed that the… More »

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Former Pakistan cricket captain Rashid Latif said Tuesday he turned down the job of national chief selector because he could not work with ex-players tainted… More »

We are not over-confident: Bailey

We are not over-confident: Bailey

Indian Premier League — George Bailey-led Kings XI Punjab will face Chennai Super Kings on Friday. More »

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

MoU between BCCI & its units to avoid double taxation delayed after a few decline to share details. More »

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Their main concern, once again, is the fast bowling More »