This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded jointly to François Englert from Belgium and British physicist Peter Higgs for – as the official citation of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences reads – „the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN's Large Hadron Collider“.
It can be said that by awarding this Nobel Prize, a whole epoch in particle physics came to fulfilment in which one of the marvellous results of human creativity, a theory known as the Standard Model, had been developed and tested in experiments. The Standard Model has considerable predictive power and up to now, no discrepancies between the data and its predictions have been observed.
It is no wonder that the Nobel Committee citation mentions explicitly Large Hadron Collider at CERN and the ATLAS and CMS experiments. Last year, these two experiments announced the discovery of a new particle, which is – as physicists are more and more certain – a Higgs boson of the Standard Model. If the mechanism for whose theoretical discovery the Prize was awarded is really at work in the Universe, the theory predicts the existence of a particle – now called Higgs boson – and all its properties except the mass. Discovery of a Higgs boson thus means experimental confirmation of principles on which the Standard Model rests. The Nobel Prize for the formulation of this theoretical mechanism can, therefore, be seen also as an appreciation of a very important experimental discovery – of a particle which the theory predicts. All the more so because according to the rules, the Nobel Prize for physics cannot be awarded to large collaborations such as ATLAS or CMS or institutions like CERN.
Scientists from the Institute of Physics of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic – together with colleagues from other institutions from the Czech Republic – have been taking an active part in construction and operation of the ATLAS experiment. The Institute of Physics is among the founding members of the ATLAS collaboration. In the Institute’s laboratories, e. g., modules of hadron calorimeter TileCal had been assembled and components of an important part of the ATLAS inner detector, the pixel detector, had been tested. Our physicists continue in taking care of the operation of these parts of the ATLAS detector since then. Several groups are active in data processing and physics analysis and profit from the services of the Institute's Computing centre, which is an important part of the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid (WLCG).
So, physicists from our Institute of Physics took part in the Higgs boson discovery and hopefully it is not too presumptuous to say that they can – together with all other colleagues from ATLAS and CMS experiments – bask a little in reflected glory from this year’s Nobel Prize.