Word from the DG: A Nobel Prize for particle physics

I don't know about you, but for me that hour between 11:45 and 12:45 on Tuesday seemed to take a very long time to pass. What was going on in that room in Stockholm we'll never know, but whatever it was, it produced a fantastic result for particle physics. There could be no more deserving laureates than François Englert and Peter Higgs, embodying as they do all the hallmarks of great scientists: brilliance, of course, but also humility and a sense of teamwork.


Nobel Prize celebrations in Building 40.


I remember when they met each other at CERN for the first time on 4 July last year: the pleasure in that meeting was evident, and when Peter Higgs was asked for comment by the dozens of journalists who came to CERN that day, he politely declined, saying that this was a day for the experiments. Well, Peter, Tuesday was your day, and everyone at CERN shares the pride and joy that you and François must have felt, wherever you were! And like I’m sure you did, we all took time out to remember our departed colleague, Robert Brout, who would surely have shared in this prize had he still been with us.

Of course, the theory behind the Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism is just a part of the story. Brilliant though it is, theory needs experiment, as the Nobel committee so eloquently said in acknowledging ATLAS, CMS, CERN and the LHC in the citation. Without the thousands of people working over decades to conceive, design and build ever more sophisticated tools to investigate the fundamental building blocks of nature, the committee could not have made such an award. Theory without experimental confirmation remains just theory, and an experiment without a theory to put to the test is no more than a collection of electronic components looking for a purpose. So wherever you are in the global particle physics community, you have contributed to this prize, and you too can feel a sense of pride and joy in the achievement.

Rolf Heuer


The Nobel in numbers

On Tuesday, only moments after the 2013 Physics Nobel Prize announcement, CERN tweeted:


This message was retweeted more than 1,000 times. Nearly 3,000 tweets that day included the #BosonNobel hashtag, reaching a potential audience of nearly 5 million  Twitter users.

On the CERN Facebook account, the Nobel announcement was the most popular CERN Facebook post to date with more than 4,000 likes. It was shared almost 2,000 times, enabling more than 150,000 people to see the post. On Google+, the announcement  was also the most popular CERN Google+ post to date, with more than 400 “+1s”  and more than 150 shares.

On the CERN website, we received around 35,800 visitors compared to an average 19,000. On the day of the announcement, the CERN Press Office hosted 43 journalists from 22 media outlets (including 11 TV stations).