Prizes show that discovery takes inspiration plus perspiration
The 2013 Nobel Prizes in chemistry, physics and physiology or medicine are all potent reminders that science, though studded with the occasional brilliant flash of insight, almost always takes years of persistent toil to move forward.
This year’s physics laureates, Peter Higgs of the University of Edinburgh and François Englert of the Université Libre de Bruxelles, proposed in 1964 that a field permeating the universe confers mass on particles that interact with it. That insight, also reached at about the same time by others who didn’t share the prize, became instrumental in developing the standard model, a theoretical framework that encompasses all known fundamental particles and all but one of its forces (gravity).
Though deep, Englert and Higgs’ insight wasn’t enough to merit a Nobel on its own. It took almost 50 years for experimental physicists — thousands of them — to develop a particle