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B Why was the name Higgs given to the boson?

  1. Nov 29, 2016 #1
    In 1964 three papers were published,
    Why was Peter's name chosen for the boson?
    Who chose it?
    1) Belgian physicists Robert Brout and Francois Englert
    Physical Review of Letters, Volume 13, number 9, August 31, 1964, Pages 321-323
    Broken Symmetry and the Mass of Gauge Vector Mesons
    http://prl.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v13/i9/p321_1 [Broken]
    2) British physicist Peter Higgs
    Physical Review of Letters, Volume 13, number 16, October 19, 1964 Pages 508-509
    Broken Symmetry and the Masses Gauge Bosons
    http://prl.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v13/i16/p508_1 [Broken]
    3) American physicists Gerald Guralnik and Richard Hagen and British physicist Tom Kibble
    Physical Review of Letters, Volume 13, number 20, November 1964, Pages 585-587
    Global Conservation Laws and Massless Particles
    http://prl.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v13/i20/p585_1 [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
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  3. Nov 29, 2016 #2

    Jonathan Scott

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  4. Nov 29, 2016 #3


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    Important things must have short names, and "Brout-Englert boson" would be too long. :biggrin:
  5. Nov 29, 2016 #4


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    Well, I think the point is that Higgs was the only one who mentioned that there must not only be the "mass-generating" vacuum expectation value of the field but also the Higgs boson as a particle in the physical spectrum. This is not as trivial as it sounds to us today since we are familiar with the Higgs mechanism already from the first lecture on particle physics, but at these times this was a new fundamental discovery, i.e., that local gauge theories cannot be spontaneously broken and that there are no Goldstone modes of any "Higgsed" local symmetry but that they provide the additional field degrees of freedom for the gauge bosons that become massive. In a general gauge, you have all these fields formally as "particles" around in the Feynman rules, but they are more or less all ghosts, like the Faddeev-Popov ghost, to cancel out the unphysical degrees of freedom of the gauge fields. Only in the unitary gauge, which however is not manifestly renormalizable and thus cumbersome to use in higher-order (loop) calculations, only the physical field-degrees of freedom are manifest. It was 't Hooft's great breakthrough to find his renormalizable ##\xi## gauges with the parameter ##\xi## connecting the renormalizable gauges with the unitary gauge, showing that the S matrix is both renormalizable and gauge independent.
  6. Nov 29, 2016 #5
    The fact that you have a left over scalar particle was known before Peter Higgs ever published anything. So, why is it named after him? The simple answer is this. If you are theorist, and submit a paper that's rejected, standard procedure is the scribble in a sentence about how your theory could supposedly be confirmed by experiment, and resubmit it. This is what Peter Higgs did when he added to one of his rejected papers an off hand reference to the left over scalar particle which everybody knew about before. He certainly never imagined that they would ever actually detect it. Now, let's say later, you are a physicist, and you want to refer to the left over scalar particle. How do you refer to it? Just in terms of common conversational English, you would say something like, "the particle Higgs mentioned" or for short "Higg's particle", with an apostrophe, and later you drop the apostrophe, and just call it "Higgs particle".
  7. Nov 29, 2016 #6


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    Why not? Experiments looked for it quite early.

    Timescale reference: The Higgs was proposed in 1964, the electroweak interaction in its current shape was put together in 1967. Neutral currents as important prediction were found 1973. The W and Z bosons were discovered in 1983, long after everything discussed here.

    "A Phenomenological Profile of the Higgs Boson" in 1976. At that time the photon was the only elementary boson directly discovered and the third generation was purely hypothetical.
    Section 2.3 discusses various existing limits on the Higgs mass. The calculated kaon branching fractions were well within the capability of fixed-target experiments if ##m(H) \approx m(\pi)##. Some other mass ranges are also discussed. The "new 3.7 particle" is probably ##\Psi(2S)## and the "3.1 particle" is ##J/\Psi## (1974).

    Calculation for PETRA in 1979
    TASSO 1983: "Search for charged higgs and technipions at petra"
    PETRA construction started in 1975, such an accelerator was certainly not unthinkable in 1964.

    Note that all those references (also some more recent ones I found on the way) just say "Higgs" or "Higgs boson".

    Digging deeper, things get more exotic:
    Experimental Search for a Low-Mass Scalar Boson from 1974 calls it "##\phi##, the Higgs scalar" (the title is just more general), and looks for it in nuclear transitions.
    "In view of recent theoretical interest in the possibility of a light scalar boson φ", from 1971: The authors mention an attempt to fit a higgs-like particle to observed x-ray spectra of muonic atoms and look for nuclear transitions, they do not mention "Higgs" at all in the whole paper.
    This paper from 1972 (R. Jackiw, Steven Weinberg) talks about the "proposed theory of electroweak interactions" and discusses a possible influence on muon g-2 measurements if the "scalar meson" (sic!) is light. They come to the conclusion that the contribution, even with optimistic masses, is 1-2 orders of magnitude below the 1972 experimental precision.
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