Anderson on Anderson-Higgs

Philip Anderson was here at Columbia yesterday, and gave a very interesting talk, mostly discussing what was going on in the late 50s and early 60s at the intersection of condensed matter and particle physics. This has attracted a lot of interest around the question of who first came up with what is now called the “Higgs mechanism” and who first predicted a “Higgs particle” (I’ve written a long blog posting about this here).

After the discovery of the BCS model of superconductivity, Anderson did important work on understanding the “gauge problem” of how gauge symmetry acts in such a theory, publishing a series of papers on this in 1958. He joked that he was “pretty naive about field theory” at the time, so much so that the spelling he was using was “guage”. He had the advantage of regularly talking with Bardeen and with Nambu, and he described some of Nambu’s work on the so-called “Nambu-Jona-Lasinio” model. His 1958 work explained how one avoids getting massless Goldstone bosons in superconductors due to the singular long range nature of the Coulomb force. His talk included an anecdote about escaping from handlers in the Soviet Union to get a chance to explain this to Shirkov during a visit there (he wasn’t allowed to meet Bogoliubov).

He was at Bell Labs in the summer of 1962, and talked to J.G. Taylor, who told him that the problem of massless Goldstones was something those in particle theory were actively worrying about. Taylor also gave him a copy of Schwinger’s Gauge invariance and mass paper, which had been published that January. This led to Anderson’s Plasmons, gauge invariance, and mass paper, finished in November, and published in April 1963. This paper clearly explains the nature of what is now generally referred to as the “Higgs mechanism”, in the Yang-Mills case, not just the Abelian case, ending with the very modern point of view

We conclude, then, that the Goldstone zero-mass difficulty is not a serious one, because we can probably cancel it off against an equal Yang-Mills zero-mass problem.

In 1964 the papers by Brout-Englert-Higgs-Guralnick-Hagen-Kibble appeared that have drawn the most attention as earliest instances of the Higgs mechanism, but Anderson had the correct idea a couple years earlier. He described the situation as one where he and the 1964 authors all had the right explanation for why the W and Z have mass, although none of them (including him) had the actual physical Higgs particle, which he claimed first appears in a 1966 paper of Higgs.

The main point of his talk was the fruitful nature of research at the intersection between problems in condensed matter and particle theory, with the 50s-60s a happy period of such work. He ended with some comments on “supersolids”, see his recent paper about this here. Anderson will be 90 years old later this year (he’s almost exactly the same age as Freeman Dyson) and it was great to see him still going strong.

Update: See here for a write-up by Anderson of a talk a few years ago covering much the same material as yesterday’s Columbia talk (including the story of meeting Shirkov).

Update: A commenter points to this recent talk by Guralnik at Brown and mentions some comments that might be about Frank Close.

I just watched the talk, and he explicitly refers to this exchange in the London Times. I don’t see how when he says

the person involved as far as we can tell has no understanding whatsoever of mass renormalization and how these things work.

this can refer to anyone except Close (about whom it is completely absurd). The point of contention here is a very simple one. Guralnik’s paper (unlike Higgs’s) has no potential term for the scalar field. In his talk he says this is because it was the practice at Harvard not to write such terms down, while knowing they had to appear to renormalize the theory. Close’s point I think is just that Higgs went further than the other authors at the time in terms of exhibiting what would be needed to study the dynamics of the physical mode of the scalar field. From what I can tell, of course everyone writing these papers knew about potential terms for the scalar and how they worked, but the whole issue is a bit irrelevant: none of the people involved at this period seem to have thought seriously about this physical mode that describes the Higgs particle itself. They were thinking about something entirely different, the mass of the gauge field, and in any case these are Abelian models that have nothing to do with the real non-Abelian model that describes the Higgs particle.

The main point of Guralnik’s talk as far as this controversy goes I think is his explicit and repeated claim (which seems to me debatable) that Higgs’s paper was just wrong for technical reasons, in the sense of reaching correct conclusions by an incorrect argument. This appears to be Guralnik’s argument for why he and his collaborators should be preferred to Higgs as candidates for a Nobel, and is made much more strongly here than in other places (such as here, where he doesn’t use the term “wrong”, emphasizes more why Higgs’s argument was “incomplete”).

Leon Cooper was in the audience, and asks Guralnik about the Anderson explanation for why the Goldstone theorem is violated here: the long range nature of the Coulomb potential. Guralnik seems to acknowledge that this is the right physical way to understand what is going on, but says that relativity makes things more complicated. He explicitly acknowledges that he understood not at all Anderson’s arguments, saying

we were woefully ignorant, had barely heard of superconductivity.

About the crucial question of priority, the fact that his competitor’s papers were published earlier, were read by him before submission of his paper, and explicitly referenced in his paper, all he says is

as we published it, we found out about other papers.

which really doesn’t do justice to the situation. In this piece, written after the Higgs discovery, he describes the history as

We finally submitted our paper to PRL with the proof of the general mechanism to avoid the Nambu Goldstone theorem (the only work to have this) and the special example. We were surprised to discover that two very different but related papers, with parts of the example, one by Englert and Brout and the other by Higgs also existed. All three papers appeared in the same volume of PRL in 1964.

which is highly misleading.

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54 Responses to Anderson on Anderson-Higgs

  1. Garrett says:

    Thanks for sharing this about Anderson. (I included him in my first slide in this short talk on the Higgs: I hope he is strongly considered for the prize.

  2. emile says:

    I would like to point out that Anderson did his best to make sure that the Higgs boson would not be found, at least in the US. Given his stance against high energy colliders, it would be highly ironic if he got a Nobel prize because of them… If he does get the prize, the Nobel committee better find a way to give it also to experimentalists who actually found the damn thing.

  3. gimmedatprize says:

    I was going to post very much the same thing as emile. Anderson says that in the 1950-60s he was one of several people working on the intersection of condensed matter and high-energy physics. But, in later years at least (for example in his attitude to the supercollider), Anderson has been one of the leading lights of condensed matter people opposed to particle physics.

  4. Yatima says:

    that the Higgs boson would not be found, at least in the US.

    That would be the Clinton administration, killing the SSC, right?

    Note that Murray Gell-Mann received a Nobel prize for something he didn’t believe in for quite a long time, too.

    And really, who cares whether the “Higgs is found in the US”? I’m getting flashbacks to the shenanigans and political interference of the highest order to prove that the AIDS virus was “found in the US”. It was all made-up of course.

  5. Bernhard says:

    Well, it is true that Anderson spoke against the SSC and this ultimately greatly contributed to killing the project. However, this does not change the fact he did understand the mechanism before others. I think Jester once put this quite nicely in

    “However, the name of Higgs somehow stuck, probably because it’s cute, or maybe because we all hate Anderson for cutting the throat of the SSC.”

    Scientists are not immune to hatred, nationalism and others “isms” but, as best as we can, we should try to be. As I see, it is clear Anderson nailed it first, so everything else he might or might have not done should not be relevant….

    I know that in the end this will be taken into account and the Nobel committee is certainly not made by neutral people without bias. However, this is what we should strive for. We should speak in favor of Anderson despite “hating his guts”.

  6. emile says:

    @Yatima: 1-Congress killed the SSC, not the Clinton administration who had funded the project in its budget (just like the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations). 2-Your comment on Gell-Mann would be relevant if he had opposed the construction of machines to prove or disprove the existence of quarks. 3-Indeed, where the Higgs was found is not the issue. The issue is that Anderson opposed funding colliders. Now, there is no high energy collider in the US: PEP, the Tevatron, all shutdown and US colleagues will have to go out of their country for the next 20 years (at least).

    @Bernhard: I don’t want to take away from Anderson’s achievements. I’ve given many talks on the Higgs boson and I have always mentioned his name in conjunction with Higgs, Brout, etc. He is an outstanding physicist and I find it inspiring that he is still going strong at 90. That said, he was opposed to funding experimental particle physics, and worked actively to kill the SSC. That should also be part of his legacy (I’m not blaming him alone for killing the machine of course…).

  7. Low Math, Meekly Interacting says:

    I’ve always been very conflicted about Anderson for the role he played in the SSC debacle (I lack the ability to comment intelligently about his contributions to physics). That said, virtually everything he has ever written about science and science funding that was geared towards a lay audience struck me as virtually unassailable. His point seemed to be that the size of the pie is limited, and there’s no compelling argument for experimental HEP getting such a big slice at the expense of other branches of physics. My solution to that problem, if anyone cared about my opinion, would be to increase the size of the pie. But it was and is a zero-sums game, and those on the condensed matter side of the profession, it would appear to this layman, possibly had a legitimate complaint about priorities. That, and maybe they were sick and tired of being called “squalid staters”, and relished the opportunity to strike back a bit too much.

    In the final analysis, while I remain quite ambivalent about Anderson, I can’t ascribe so much of the blame to him. Congress had the knives out already, and at most I think Anderson made it easier for them to play political football. I’m not sure how much guilt someone should bear for putting a fig leaf on the naked opportunism of purported budget hawks, who feel no remorse over their assault on science in general.

  8. Peter Woit says:


    The SSC was cut at a time when there was a huge campaign to cut the federal budget (for some reason this happens under Democratic presidents, under Republican ones you get big spending increases…). It wasn’t just Anderson, much of the scientific community looked at the SSC, and at their field’s budgets being flat or getting cut, and argued that the SSC should probably not be supported, with the funds redirected to other deserving causes (like their own research). I remember having to point out to many people at the time that if the SSC was cut, that didn’t mean the money would get redirected to other scientific projects.

  9. Low Math, Meekly Interacting says:

    All too true. OK, virtually unassailable except for the sad fact that it can turn to a negative-sums game all too easily.

  10. Roger says:

    Anderson has a review of a biography of Freeman Dyson, and says he (Anderson) “sensed his [Dyson’s] ambiguity about conventional liberal positions … most of which I hold unambiguously.”

    Clinton did sign the bill to kill the SSC in 1993. Congress was controlled by Democrats at the time.

  11. Peter Woit says:


    Thanks for the link to the Anderson review of the Dyson book.

    About the SSC, yes, but the Democrats in the Senate voted 29-26 against cancellation, the Republican voted 31-13 for cancellation.

    The fact of the matter is that, no matter how much people try and turn this into yet another partisan issue, it wasn’t one then, and current debates over more or less science funding are not partisan issues now, with Democrats and Republicans on both sides of these kinds of votes.

    Please all, resist the temptation to engage in the tedious arguments now found everywhere about how everything is either, to taste, the fault of the Democrats or the fault of the Republicans. Mercifully, HEP funding just isn’t a partisan issue.

  12. Yatima says:

    and current debates over more or less science funding are not partisan issues now, with Democrats and Republicans on both sides of these kinds of votes

    They are definitely “bipartisan”, in a very, very bad sense. Anyone who wants to know more should grab a copy of David Stockman’s “The Great Deformation”, now on sale. Or one may reflect on the fact that the SSC with all its cost overruns is just 4 days of 2013 military activity. I’m too lazy to adjust for inflation of course.

    I can only refer the esteemed readership to this brief writeup: The Decline and Fall of the SSC by John G. Cramer

  13. chickenfeed says:

    Don’t try to compare HEP funding (or SSC cost) against military funding. As someone said (back in the 1970s) “The cost of US support for HEP (then annually $350M approx) is not chicken feed. The cost of chicken feed is about ten times that amount.” So … starve the chickens to pay for atom smashers?

    The military has its own priorities and reasons for its budget. The internet by itself is a military invention. (Yes. Read about ARPAnet.) Microwave ovens are also a (byproduct) military invention. Indeed bellbottoms are also a military (US Navy) invention.

    The SSC was mismanaged from the beginning. But people such as Anderson, with his parochial attitudes, were significant.

  14. Peter Woit says:

    Please, all, if it’s not about Anderson/and or the mechanism, it’s off-topic.

  15. Hmunu says:


    Anderson also has a rather terse response in this month’s Physics Today concerning an article from last year in the magazine about applications of AdS/CFT correspondence to condensed matter systems.

    Shorter: “You are welcome to continue to play in your sandbox with your toys as long as it doesn’t bother the adults who are trying to get work done.”

  16. Anonymous says:

    I think the only example of overt political bias in the Physics Nobel was Pascual Jordan being the prize for being a Nazi. I don’t think Anderson’s “crime” of opposing the SSC is enough for losing it.

  17. yet another anon says:

    Except that Anderson already has a Nobel.
    SSC aside, he is a truly outstanding physicist,
    and probably deserves a second Nobel anyway,
    even if not for the higgs.

  18. SpearMarktheSecond says:

    I asked Anderson directly about his opposition to the
    SSC. His answer was emotional, not rational. He
    said he detested the hordes of experimental particle
    physicists who didn’t or couldn’t think for themselves.

    I had hoped he had a more thoughtful reason for his
    opposition. Certainly the money slated to be spent on
    the SSC didn’t end up in condensed matter physics.
    Maybe in the end the NIH got a big bump though…
    not because of the SSC.

  19. Krzysztof says:

    Yesterday, Frank Close gave a CERN colloquium on the higgs saga, and offered his personal nominations for the nobels. In his opinion, Anderson should not be in the final three – see

  20. Bernhard says:


    This was very interesting. The question is of course if Close´s interpretation of Anderson´s role (as in slide 54) is really fair or biased (whatever the bias is..).
    For one thing, I would love to hear Anderson´s own thoughts on what Close is claiming.

  21. IM says:

    Polyakov in `A View From the Island’ (arXiv:hep-th/9211140) says:

    Sasha and I started to analyze Yang-Mills theories with the dynamical sym-
    metry breaking and in the spring of 1965 came with the understanding that the
    massless particles must be eaten by the vector mesons, which become massive after this meal.
    We had many troubles with the referees and at seminars, but finally our paper
    was published (Migdal–Polyakov [6]). We did not know, until very much later
    about the work on “Higgs Mechanism” which has been done in the West at about
    the same time, or slightly earlier.

    [6] A. Migdal and A. Polyakov, ZHETF 51, 135 (1966).

  22. socrates says:

    One assumes Anderson was not too thrilled with the Higgs discovery?

  23. Peter Woit says:


    Thanks for the link.


    The main argument against Anderson has always been that HEP people at the time thought relativity was relevant, and he didn’t provide proof they were wrong. On the other hand, his claims about how you should understand the mechanism, that it was something where relativity wasn’t relevant (you don’t need antiparticles) turned out to be perfectly correct. The claims from the HEP side about the Goldstone theorem and relativity being crucial turned out to be wrong.


    “at about the same time” isn’t a very accurate way to refer to work done nearly 3 years earlier (Anderson), and more than 1 year earlier (Brout-Englert-Higgs). I have no idea what the situation was in the Soviet Union back then, but it’s surprising they had no access to the Physical Review. The story from Guralnik-Hagen-Kibble about not having access to the main journals at the time due to post office problems is also rather odd.

  24. John says:

    “The internet by itself is a military invention. (Yes. Read about ARPAnet.)”
    Yes, but don’t confuse the web and the internet.


    That relativity was not an issue had to be proved. It’s not enough that it turned out not to be.

    In any case, Anderson’s is a lost cause.

  25. Peter Woit says:


    What’s odd about this is that traditionally the Nobel prize is not a mathematical physics prize. Ignoring the fact that someone had the proper physical understanding of the phenomenon and wrote a paper explaining it, in favor of later more technical work is hard to understand other than sociologically.

    This would make more sense if one was arguing that Anderson didn’t have the relevant model, but in this case the relevant model didn’t appear until Weinberg-Salam. People are trying to make the case that a prize should be given not for the right model (which has already happened), but for the physical mechanism of how gauge-fields acquire masses. The mechanism is the same in non-relativistic models and relativistic models, so I don’t see why you can justify ignoring Anderson’s work on the non-relativistic model and his (accurate) insight that relativity wasn’t relevant.

  26. John says:

    “What’s odd about this is that traditionally the Nobel prize is not a mathematical physics prize. Ignoring the fact that someone had the proper physical understanding of the phenomenon and wrote a paper explaining it, in favor of later more technical work is hard to understand other than sociologically.”

    Yeah, tell that to ‘t Hooft.

  27. John Brown says:

    Guralnik addresses some of these points earlier in the month (April 2013) during a talk here at Brown – his home campus.

    He compares the Englert-Brout, Higgs, and Guralnik-Hagen-Kibble papers and seems to directly take on the “blogs” and Frank Close. Guralnik explains what was wrong in the other papers.

    So either he does not get it or people like Frank Close don’t get it. Maybe someone here can enlighten (on the physics not the politics of the Nobel).

  28. XYZW says:

    If so many people came up with the Higgs mechanism, then it doesn’t matter who came up with it first.

  29. Lanny says:

    Just watched the Close video from CERN. He seems to change his view that it should be Goldstone, Higgs, and Kibble. See below link where he pushes that.

    That must have been “too Anglo” or someone at CERN had a “talk” with him to point out CERN (and t’Hooft) was pushing Englert hard. I vote for the later.

    The Guralnik video poted seems to state Close (and some others) is not qualified to comment on this given is lack of understanding. Is Frank a flip-flopper or is he not well-versed in field theory? I don’t kow enough about his “real” physics work.

  30. Peter Woit says:


    Goldstone and Nambu were two of the most important figures in this story, so with Nambu but not Goldstone recently rewarded with a Nobel, it makes sense to try and fit Goldstone in. But, with Englert publishing first, there’s a strong case for him, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Close changed his mind back and forth on this.

    I haven’t yet watched the Guralnik video, but his main problem is that his paper was published later, after he and his collaborators had read the papers of Anderson, Brout-Englert and Higgs, putting too many people in line for the Nobel ahead of him and his collaborators. I don’t think accusing Close or others who point this out of being ignorant is going to help his case.

  31. Nige Cook says:

    Frank Close: “So I asked Brout and Englert, why didn’t you mention this [massive spin-0] boson in your paper? They said, well, we thought it was sort of obvious. But Higgs alone is the one who identified that in particle physics there will be a particular implication, and that I think is why he is rightly named for it. In fact Peter Higgs amusingly said to me, ‘Oh Brout and Englert are quite right, it is completely obvious.’ In fact, in the first draft of the paper that Higgs wrote he didn’t even mention it, and the referee turned the paper down and then Higgs thought maybe I’d better think of some implications, and he added this extra implication which is now the boson. So if the referee hadn’t turned the paper down, even Higgs might not have mentioned it.”

  32. Lanny says:


    Agree with you to some degree and thanks for reply. As for the videos, I should state that it is not explicitly clear Gerald Guralnik is talking about Frank Close (as he is not mentioned explicitly). I am merely assuming this as it seems to make the exact counter to the points in Frank’s talk at CERN given a couple weeks after the Brown talk.

    Close does not seem to making his points on timing on the 1964 PRL papers. This is probably sound given the independence, the different approaches, the references, and the timing of the papers have been discussed in many forums – including this blog. Guralnik discusses this in this paper (p. 18)

    Close seems to be making his points around this “massive vs. massless” boson. Guralnik states that those making this point don’t understand the details field theory – and challenges those to look closer at this mass calculation. He makes this point in the video ( and to a lesser extent in this paper Guralnik’s points are over my head as I clearly don’t have the depth in field theory to properly evaluate.

    The other theme of the GG video is how it started from his thesis and a paper prior to the Higgs PL paper. Since there were errors in the earlier paper, they sat on the GHK paper longer than they would have otherwise.

    At the end of the day, the Nobel committee certainly needs to determine if the prize should match the history or the statutes.

  33. Peter Woit says:


    I did just watch the talk and added some comments about it as an update to the posting. Guralnik was definitely talking about Close.

    I think Close emphasizes the inclusion of the potential terms in the Higgs paper because he’s arguing for a connection of Higgs’s work to the recent Higgs particle discovery, making it a good candidate for a Nobel. The argument he is trying to counter seems to me more the following: these authors back in 1964 were only considering the question of the gauge field mass, and had no interest in the physical mode which is a U(1) analog of the relevant Weinberg-Salam Higgs now discovered, so rewarding them based on the discovery is not justified. About Guralnik et al. the priority question is very clear: having to choose three, there’s zero chance of the Nobel committee deciding to award Guralnik, Hagen, Kibble the prize over Higgs and Englert. The one way you could see that happening I suppose is if a discussion of the physical Higgs mode was in GHK but not in Brout-Englert or Higgs, which is definitely not the case.

  34. Xu Jia says:

    Dear Peter,
    Close’s argument is weak, since none of the three papers can give an assertion whether the scalar boson should or should not have a mass, which is model dependent. The necessity of introducing a scalar of weak-scale mass may be reflected in the fact that the WW sccatering needs cancel unwanted infinities. This was realized even after the renormalization work was done. The Nobel is not given exclusively because someone said it “can” have mass. Hence Higgs doesn’t have priority on this issue, but on chronology.
    In my opinion the crucial thing is ‘t Hooft’s use of the massive gauge. It is unprecedented. It’s not saying that there is a scalar field interacting with the gauge field, but the gauge field is fixed on a mass dome. None of the three papers indicate this usage.
    Anderson’s physics is absolutely correct and relativistics is not relevant. But he is correct only in the frame of our limited understanding. I always guess that all this eating and giving stuff is just a language, and is incomplete (since it has no way to give the mass of Higgs itself). Maybe the Nambu-Goldstone boson is fictious. The gauge bosons have mass per se, and the scalar field is the leftover of their interactions. Maybe it relates to gravity, big bang, or something totally unexpected.

  35. Pawl says:

    Closely related to Peter’s point about what people were concerned about at the time:

    There’s a curious subjective element in these disputes, in that to determine what constitutes a Nobel-worthy advance people are in effect arguing about what the state of understanding was in 1962-1964. On an active research forefront, this is going to be ill-defined. So here one person regarded the appearance of the massive (scalar) boson as so obvious not to need mentioning, but on the other hand was unhappy with another’s assertion that obviously there are no relativity issues.

    Perhaps a prize based on a change of understanding within a subfield would go to someone different from one based on where the essential idea came from.

    I don’t usually spend my time feeling sorry for Nobel committees…. Of course, maybe it in all fairness should go to another area entirely this year.

  36. Roger says:

    UK newspaper:
    Brout-Englert-Higgs, SM Scalar boson or BEHGHK? Scientists push to rename Higgs boson particle (but the alternatives aren’t too snappy) …
    Rival scientists have launched a campaign to rename the so-called ‘God particle’, claiming that British physicist Peter Higgs does not deserve all the credit for the breakthrough discovery.

  37. chris says:

    ah, the lofty world of academia, where only the factual truth matters and nothing else….

  38. Bernhard says:


    Now they are starting the campaign? This should really not taking seriously, the name “Higgs boson” is here to stay for historical reasons already. I did not see any serious campaign to change it BEFORE the discovery, which makes me think they were all OK with giving Higgs the credit if the idea was wrong. I am all OK with calling the mechanism “Anderson-Higgs” but calling it the BEHGHK boson is really ugly. I hope people in HEP will just ignore this.

  39. bcs says:

    Did Bardeen and/or Schrieffer ever complain that ‘Cooper pairs’ were not instead named ‘Bardeen brothers’ or ‘Schrieffer sisters’?

  40. Peter Woit says:


    In this case, Cooper really was first, about the pairs. Wikipedia does suggest you can also call them “BCS pairs” if you want….

  41. Thomas says:

    To give a prize for the discovery of the Higgs boson/Higgs mechanism and not include Higgs as one of the recipients would obviously be difficult to explain to the physics community and the general public. In addition to that, there are perfectly good reasons for selecting Higgs, and I think the best one is not the one that Close mentions (the fact that he has a potential for the radial mode). At this point the best evidence we have for the “mechanism” in addition to the “particle” is that we have observed H->2 vector bosons with the predicted strength. This process was considered by Higgs in his longer paper, but not by anybody else.

    Beyond including Higgs there are obviously many permutations, and I find it hard to distinguish between them (except, unfortunately, I see no plausible way of including Hagen and Guralnik). There is Higgs/Anderson/Goldstone (except that I am not sure if Anderson really needs or deserves a second Nobel), Higgs/Brout/Goldstone, Higgs/Brout/Kibble (based on Close’s observation that Kibble added group theory, and
    Weinberg was influenced by Higgs/Kibble), …

  42. emile says:

    @Thomas: I agree that the second paper helps given that the experimental evidence shows this particle decaying to vector bosons. I think you meant Englert and not Brout since Brout passed away. The committee will need to find a way to acknowledge the huge experimental component to all this. If they can’t give it to “CERN” they should give it to the CERN DG. That would at least ackowledge the experimentalists and accelerator physicists, without which this debate would not take place. Had we listened to Anderson, there would be no debate about who gets the prize either… So, to me: Higgs, Englert, and CERN (and not Anderson given his negative contribution to the experimental discovery).

  43. prizes says:

    There will almost certainly be separate Nobel prizes for expt and theory. Lamb and Kusch won in 1955 for expts which revealed significant QED effects. Feynman, Schwinger and Tomonoga had to wait 10 years till 1965 to get their Nobels for QED theory (and Dyson received no prize).

  44. Bernhard says:

    ” they should give it to the CERN DG”.

    Spot on, emile. This is what I have been also defending as the only sensible way to acknowledge the experiments (one should not forget the LHC collaboration).

    To give the prize to the spokespersons is nonsense, so one could give it “to CERN” and the DG could go get it.

  45. edin says:

    Look at this from the University of Edinburgh

    A paragraph is devoted to Anderson and why PWA didn’t really understand what was going on. Brief mention of the other hopefuls.

  46. Peter Woit says:


    I definitely agree that first priority should be a prize for the huge experimental achievement of the Higgs discovery. To react to this discovery by ignoring experimental effort in favor of giving a prize to somewhat off the main point theoretical activity from 50 years ago would have priorities quite backwards. It’s worth noting that the theoretical activity being discussed here was in some ways basically misguided: the people doing this were trying to come up with a theory of the strong interactions, not the weak interactions. It was only with Weinberg-Salam in 1967 that the right idea about the Higgs was finally found, and they already have their prize.

    As I’ve mentioned before, I think this would be an excellent time for the Nobel committee to give up the “only individuals rule” and award the prize to CERN + ATLAS + CMS

  47. Peter Woit says:


    I don’t think that text says Anderson didn’t understand what was going on. It says he didn’t explain why the Goldstone theorem didn’t apply, which is true, but it’s not clear to me that it should be prize-worthy to point out to some people who were not being careful that their argument wasn’t any good. The text also says Anderson didn’t discuss the radial mode, which Anderson doesn’t claim to have done.

    It’s interesting that that text has:
    “During October 1964, Higgs had discussions with Gerald Guralnik, Carl Hagen and Tom Kibble, who had discovered how the mass of non-interacting vector bosons can be generated by the Anderson mechanism.”
    which corresponds to Higgs’s diary indicating he gave a talk in London about this just before GHK sent off their paper for publication. My understanding is that GHK claim this is simply not true, I’ve never seen the truth of this matter sorted out.

  48. M says:

    Certainty CERN experimentalists deserve a Nobel prize. Given that it is now clear that the “125 GeV resonance” is the Higgs, priority should be given to the less joung theorists. It would be sad if the semi-scientific issues here debated will be solved by passing away. Whoever the right theorists are, there is a ≈30%/year probability that this happens for at least one of them.

  49. King Ray says:

    Peter, if they give the Nobel to CERN+ATLAS+CMS, could each participant claim to be a Nobel Laureate, sort of like each member of a Superbowl winning team getting a Superbowl ring? If so, this could dilute the prestige of the award.

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