Peter Higgs and François Englert to receive 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics and TRIUMF name changes?

After all the foofaraw about finding/confirming the existence of the Higgs Boson or ‘god’ particle (featured in my July 4, 2012 posting amongst many others), the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the 2013 Nobel prize for Physics to two of the individuals responsible for much of the current thinking about subatomic particles and mass (from the Oct. 8, 2013 news item on ScienceDaily),

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2013 to François Englert of Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium, and Peter W. Higgs of the University of Edinburgh, UK, “for 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.”

François Englert and Peter W. Higgs are jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics 2013 for the theory of how particles acquire mass. In 1964, they proposed the theory independently of each other (Englert together with his now deceased colleague Robert Brout). In 2012, their ideas were confirmed by the discovery of a so called Higgs particle at the CERN laboratory outside Geneva in Switzerland.

TRIUMF, sometimes known as Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, has issued an Oct. 8, 2013 news release,


Canadians Key Part of Historical Nobel Prize to “Godfathers” of the “God Particle”

(Vancouver, BC) — The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences today awarded the Nobel Prize in physics to Professor Peter W. Higgs (Univ. of Edinburgh) and Professor François Englert (Univ. Libre de Bruxelles) to recognize their work developing the theory of what is now known as the Higgs field, which gives elementary particles mass.  Canadians have played critical roles in all stages of the breakthrough discovery Higgs boson particle that validates the original theoretical framework.  Throngs across Canada are celebrating.

More than 150 Canadian scientists and students at 10 different institutions are presently involved in the global ATLAS experiment at CERN.  Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, TRIUMF, has been a focal point for much of the Canadian involvement that has ranged from assisting with the construction of the LHC accelerator to building key elements of the ATLAS detector and hosting one of the ten global Tier-1 Data Centres that stores and processes the physics for the team of thousands.

“The observation of a Higgs Boson at about 125 GeV, or 130 times the mass of the proton, by both the ATLAS and CMS groups is a tremendous achievement,” said Rob McPherson, spokesperson of the ATLAS Canada collaboration, a professor of physics at the University of Victoria and Institute of Particle Physics scientist. “Its existence was predicted in 1964 when theorists reconciled how massive particles came into being.  It took almost half a century to confirm the detailed predictions of the theories in a succession of experiments, and finally to discover the Higgs Boson itself using our 2012 data.”

The Brout-Englert-Higgs (BEH) mechanism was first proposed in 1964 in two papers published independently, the first by Belgian physicists Robert Brout and François Englert, and the second by British physicist Peter Higgs. It explains how the force responsible for beta decay is much weaker than electromagnetism, but is better known as the mechanism that endows fundamental particles with mass. A third paper, published by Americans Gerald Guralnik and Carl Hagen with their British colleague Tom Kibble further contributed to the development of the new idea, which now forms an essential part of the Standard Model of particle physics. As was pointed out by Higgs, a key prediction of the idea is the existence of a massive boson of a new type, which was discovered by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN in 2012.

The next step will be to determine the precise nature of the Higgs particle and its significance for our understanding of the universe. Are its properties as expected for the Higgs boson predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics? Or is it something more exotic? The Standard Model describes the fundamental particles from which we, and every visible thing
in the universe, are made, and the forces acting between them. All the matter that we can see, however, appears to be no more than about 4% of the total. A more exotic version of the Higgs particle could be a bridge to understanding the 96% of the universe that remains obscure.

TRIUMF salutes Peter Higgs and François Englert for their groundbreaking work recognized by today’s Nobel Prize and congratulates the international team of tens of thousands of scientists, engineers, students, and many more from around the world who helped make the discovery.

For spokespeople at the major Canadian universities involved in the Higgs discovery, please see the list below:


U of Alberta: Doug Gingrich,, 780-492-9501
UBC:  Colin Gay,, 604-822-2753
Carleton U: Gerald Oakham (& TRIUMF),, 613-520-7539
McGill U: Brigitte Vachon (also able to interview in French),, 514-398-6478
U of Montreal: Claude Leroy (also able to interview in French),, 514-343-6722
Simon Fraser U: Mike Vetterli (& TRIUMF, also able to interview in French),, 778-782-5488
TRIUMF: Isabel Trigger (also able to interview in French),, 604-222-7651
U of Toronto: Robert Orr,, 416-978-6029
U of Victoria: Rob McPherson,, 604-222-7654
York U: Wendy Taylor,, 416-736-2100 ext 77758

While I know Canadians have been part of the multi-year, multi-country effort to determine the existence or non-existence of the Higgs Boson and much more in the field of particle physics, I would prefer we were not described as “… Key Part of Historical Nobel Prize … .” The question that springs to mind is: how were Canadian efforts key to this work? The answer is not revealed in the news release, which suggests that the claim may be a little overstated. On the other hand, I do like the bit about ‘saluting Higgs and Englert for their groundbreaking work’.

As for TRIUMF and what appears to be a series of name changes, I’m left somewhat puzzled, This Oct. 8, 2013 news release bears the name (or perhaps it’s a motto or tagline of some sort?): TRIUMF — Accelerating Science for Canada, meanwhile the website still sports this: TRIUMF Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics while a July 17, 2013 TRIUMF news release gloried in this name: TRIUMF Accelerators, Inc., (noted in my July 18, 2013 posting). Perhaps TRIUMF is trying to follow in CERN’s footsteps. CERN was once known as the ‘European particle physics laboratory’ but is now known as the European Organization for Nuclear Research and seems to also have the tagline: ‘Accelerating science’.

2 thoughts on “Peter Higgs and François Englert to receive 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics and TRIUMF name changes?

  1. T.I. Meyer

    M —

    Thank you for following this news story! Quite an exciting day for many people.
    I think you overlooked a few items that might address your concerns.

    (1) The Nobel Prize citation. It names two people and then one international mega lab and two of its experiments — “…confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.” If you read the full Nobel Prize website, they indicate that the Academy very intentionally chose to mention CERN and the experimental discovery in the citation to “share the credit.” Was Canada involved in ATLAS and the Large Hadron Collider? You betcha.

    (2) TRIUMF has not changed names. Did you see the lab referred to as something other than TRIUMF somewhere? It is TRUE that the we brand our press releases differently based on the topic and the partner organizations. You’ll notice that the Nobel Prize press release was co-branded with ATLAS-Canada and we therefore suppressed one of our taglines. And yes, we have multiple tag lines (about 8 of them, actually); each is appropriate for a different situation. And you are correct in that the CERN tagline and one of ours look similar. I will assert, and leave you to check, that TRIUMF actually developed “Accelerating Science for Canada” BEFORE CERN started using theirs.

    (3) Finally, you seem to have confused the incorporated entity that holds the operating license (issued by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) with the joint venture that owns and operates the laboratory. TRIUMF Accelerators, Inc. (TAI) hold the operating license and has a management agreement with the joint venture for the operations of the laboratory. If you read up on the Canadian Nuclear Safety and Control Act, you’ll understand why this byzantine structure was created when that law went into force. To put it briefly, TAI holds an operating license for the laboratory that is owned and operated by the joint venture. The lab is called TRIUMF, the members of the joint venture are sometimes called the consortium.


  2. Maryse de la Giroday Post author

    Dear Tim, Nice to see you back here. Plus, I always love to see answers to questions. (1) Good of the Nobel folks to intentionally share the credit. Still, I’m uncomfortable when a Canadian agency self-congratulates before ‘saluting’ the two honorees (at the end of the news release). Also, there are no specifics about Canada’s ‘key’ contributions in either the news release or your comments. Of course, I’m delighted that we participated along with all the other countries and happy to share in the celebrations. (2 & 3) Thank you for the clarification. TRIUMF’s news releases and various names are a little confusing as I’ve noted. If I may suggest, perhaps a more modern approach to writing these releases could be adopted? Many, many organizations have similar issues to yours and they include an ‘About xxx’ section, e.g. About TRIUMF; About TRIUMF Accelerators Inc., etc., after the body of the news release below – 30 – or – end – or #### (hash) marks would be helpful in attaining clarity. In any event, I’m happy to see so much interest in physics (Canadian and otherwise) and happy to spread the word. Cheers, Maryse

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