WASHINGTON – They are celebrating out in College Park. The University of Maryland Physics Department has a link to a Nobel Prize.
The Nobel winners, Peter Higgs of Britain and Francois Englert of Belgium, came up with a theory in the 1960s dealing with particles, atoms and the origins of the universe.
Roughly 50 years later, an international team of researchers proved their theory correct.
Thousands contributed to the effort, including professors, engineers, research assistants and students – 22 in all – from the University Maryland. Those involved at College Park helped build a particle detector and analyzed data.
“To find something that was only theoretically predicted, I think that says something great about human beings and their curiosity,” says Drew Baden, chair of the Physics Department at the University of Maryland.
He says the fact they were able to verify the theory is “mindblowing” and points to the value of fundamental research.
Baden says “we are looking for all kinds of new things to understand the universe” and this effort — perhaps the biggest scientific experiment ever — provided a missing piece of the puzzle.
He says he takes pride in Maryland’s part in the research project conducted through the huge CERN laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. And if you ask him what it means to folks who know nothing about physics, and can’t begin to comprehend all the technical jargon surrounding the Higgs boson particle and the Higgs field, he thinks for a minute and then suggests the following:
“You tell them that you are part of a civilization that is actually making significant progress in understanding just how the world works, how the universe works, how it started, and how it got from where it started to where we are now.”
Last year, scientists at CERN announced they had detected the theoretical Higgs boson particle, also known as the God particle.