Speculation is rampant that the discovery of the Higgs boson will get a Nobel prize.

We'll see. The modern Nobel committee is usually pretty astute and they don't seem to give out awards based on popularity polls or being the anti-George Bush, like the Peace Prize does. That wasn't always the case. As I noted in Do You Look Younger Than Your Ancestors? It's Because Time Really Has Slowed Down, the 1912 committee settled the issue of who should get the Nobel for special relativity, Einstein or Lorentz and Einstein together, by instead awarding it to Nils Gustaf Dalen for the "invention of automatic regulators for lighting coastal beacons and light buoys during darkness or other periods of reduced visibility."

A sensor for lighthouses beat Einstein? Okay.

Neither general nor special relativity ever got a Nobel prize and that gaffe won't happen this time; there has been too much media attention given to the Higgs, and weird anomalies like that, despite all his work, Gandhi never got a Peace Prize but that US President Barack Obama got one for his 2009 inauguration speech makes them all sensitive about looking stupid to future generations.

But NBC is hinting about a controversy where there is none, saying that a Higgs award could set a new precedent, with not just Scotland's Peter Higgs and Belgium's Francois Englert getting the honor with either Gerald Guralnik, Carl Hagen or Tom Kibble, but perhaps the entire LHC for their experimental work.

How is a group award new? The IPCC got one in 2007. There are thousands of climate scientists running around right now claiming part of a Nobel prize. And the European Union got one last year, apparently for the period since World War II, the longest period of peace in European history - but even that was only accomplished due to American occupation.  They all hate us having troops there so they have forgotten to hate each other.(1) Nobel standards are not all that rigorous.

Peter Higgs at the LHC announcement in 2012. Credit: CERN

It just hasn't happened in the science prizes but we are increasingly in the era of Big Science so it is coming sooner rather than later. Finding a particle and naming it after a particle that had no actual predicted value does not mean Peter Higgs should get it rather than the LHC - after they spent all that money, any particle found that came close to that theoretical framework was going to be called Higgs, but they first had to find one and that made all those physicists vital to the discovery.

Precedent? No, it is just reality.

You can see the announcements as they happen on YouTube.


(1) Not all. The Swiss just did a military operation based on the scenario that they are invaded by France over money. Being surrounded by Italy, Germany and France has not been easy for the Swiss throughout the post-unification history of those countries. There is a reason the Swiss maintain hundreds of forts in their mountains and every male is required to do military service and then gets sent home with a rifle.