The BEHGHK-boson

After the (tentative) discovery of the Higgs boson earlier this year, it was generally expected that the 2013 Nobel prize for physics would be awarded to the theoretical physicists who, fifty years ago, postulated the concept of a particle that would give all the other elementary particles their mass (ok.. this is a bit of a simplification, lol).

And so it happened. On 8-10-2013 the Nobel committee awarded the prize to Peter Higgs and François Englert. François Englert? I had never even heard about this man!

Englert and Higgs

Here they are, Englert (Belgian) to the left and Higgs (British) to the right.

I was intrigued and started surfing and reading. Not about the theoretical background, that is way to complicated for me. I was interested in the human aspects. The result is this post.

In the second half of the last century, physicists all over the world were trying to build a model for the fundamental forces in nature. This resulted in what now is called the Standard Model. See my post God’s Particle for (a little bit) more information.

When a physicist finds something new and interesting, of course he wants to publish it. For example in the Physical Review, one of the leading physics magazines. As it was peer-reviewed, it could take easily half a year after submitting your paper before it got published. Therefore it was decided in 1958 to create Physical Review Letters, a weekly journal meant for short contributions. Time between submission and publication a couple of weeks only.

First issue of PRL

When I was doing my PhD research, there was always a copy of the Physical Review Letters in the library of our institute, available for perusal.

And it was a dream for many young scientists to publish something in this highly valued journal.

By the way, I never did…:-)

It was in 1964, that Peter Higgs (then 35 years old) published a letter in this journal: Broken symmetries and the masses of gauge bosons , submitted August 31 and published October 19. It was this article that finally resulted, almost 50 years later, in the Nobel Prize. Here it is ( don’t try to understand it)


So what about Englert? Well, he and Robert Brout (Belgian American) had published a few weeks earlier, in the same magazine, an article with the title Broken symmetry and the mass of gauge vector mesons ! Submitted June 26 and published August 31. Comparing the titles you probably will accept, even without any understanding, that the two contributions basically cover the same ground!

And that is not all. A third article was published a few weeks later, again in the same journal. Thomas Kibble (Imperial College, London) had been studying with two American guest scientists, Gerard Guralnik and Carl Hagen, the same problem of symmetry breaking and mass, and come to similar conclusions. Their paper was submitted on October 12 and published November 16.

Three papers within three months. Independent research, no doubt about that, it was just that the time was ripe for it…:-). There has also been recognition by the physics community for all six authors. Three years ago the American Physical Society has awarded the prestigious Sakuarai prize to them.

Sakurai Prize

From left to right: Kibble, Guralnik, Hagen, Englert, Brout. Is it on purpose or accidental that Higgs is missing…:-)?

In the years after publication, when the Standard Model was developed, it became customary to talk about the Higgs boson, the Higgs field, the Higgs mechanism. Not really fair to the others, although Higgs was not to blame for that. Abdus Salam, one of the fathers of the Standard Model, used the name Higgs-Kibble boson, but it did not catch.

Recently, when it became clear that a Nobel Prize was coming, the discussion started again and became a bit less friendly. In a  2012 physics conference there was a directive that in contributions the name Higgs-boson should be avoided and replaced by BroutEnglertHiggs boson or by SM Scalar boson ! It caused a bit of an uproar, many physicists objected.

Here is a part of the program of this 2012 Moriond conference

Moriond program

Even in these alternatives the work of Guralnik, Hagen and Kibble remains invisible, so there was also a suggestion to rename the Higgs boson as BEHGHK boson. (the initials of the six authors).

Kibble found a name change silly, but Hagen objected to the name Higgs boson, because: ‘The rest of us are fighting not just for our ego but for our place in the annals of physics.‘ Read more about this controversy here

A Nobel Prize can be awarded only to people who are still alive and to a maximum of three people. That is the rule. So, what would the Nobel Committee decide? One option would have been, to choose one person in each of the three groups. Brout passed away two years ago, so the choice for the first two groups would be simple: Englert and Higgs. But what about the Imperial College group? How to choose between Kibble, Guralnik and Hagen?

I have read somewhere that this year the meeting of the committee about the Physics Nobel Prize took longer than usual…:-) Finally it was decided to leave the third paper out and award the prize to Englert and Higgs.

I think that Kibble will be phlegmatic over the outcome. Not so sure about Guralnik, Hagen will be disappointed.

To honour all six, here is a collage

The six authors

From left to right: Brout, Englert, Higgs, Guralnik, Hagen, Kibble: BEHGHK

Theoretical physicists are human too ..:-)

Naughty, naughty!

In the 1970’s I have been collecting postcards during my visits to England. Naughty postcards! They were popular in those days and actually quite innocent according to modern standards…:-) Here are two examples.



What to do with those postcards? After I had collected a lot, I decided to create a kind of collage with them on a piece of cardboard. And what better place to hang it than in the toilet ..:-) From that time on my guests often stayed a bit longer in the toilet and came out with a big smile. When I moved to my new apartment, I forgot more or less about this “work of art” until I found it back recently and put it again in the toilet.

Toilet humor

During my last stay I decided to take pictures of the individual postcards. Here is the rest of my collection. The quality is not perfect, but they have stood the test of time (~40 years) reasonably well. Enjoy…:-)

For those of you interested in some background information, you may notice that many of the cards are signed “Pedro”. it was one of the nicknames of their creator David Philip Millar (1909-1988), master of the double entendre

Journal 17-10-2013

The last three weeks, after Aric went back to Malaysia, I have been busy with many social and cultural activities. I started with visits to my GP, my cardiologist, my diabetician, my ophthalmologist and my dentist….:-)  Everything is under control.

My dentist used a new torture contraption, which made me look like a breedbekkikker (wide-mouthed frog, rana ore lato, can only be found in the Netherlands, lol).


I visited two more musea and went to two concerts. In the Concertgebouw I listened to Maria Pires, playing Beethoven. She got an ovational applause which she rightly deserved. With a friend I went to the Gauguin, Bonnard & Denis exhibition in the Amsterdam Hermitage museum. A bit disappointing, although the museum itself is worth a visit. Another concert was given in the impressive Neo-Gothic Dominicus church in Amsterdam. My friend Yolanda sings in a choir, they performed works by Bach and Mozart. Beautiful music, especially the Bach cantata Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir . With another friend I went to an exhibition of Hundertwasser  in the Cobra museum in Amstelveen.

The Hundertwasser exhibition was a pleasant surprise. I knew him only as an architect (here is is picture I took of the Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna, 6 years ago), but first he became famous as a painter, in the 1950’s. Here are some of his paintings. Both from these paintings and his buildings it is clear that he did not like straight lines, he called them devil’s tools..:-)

When I am back in the Netherlands, it has become a tradition to have dinner with Yolanda in a  ‘fine dining’ restaurant. This time we went to restaurant Vandemarkt and had a delicious dinner there. The presentation of the food makes it almost a work of art.The reason that in the picture the main course looks messy, is that I could not control myself, I started eating before I thought about taking a picture…:-)

vandemarkt food


Another tradition during my stay in the Netherlands is a reunion with my siblings. This time it took place at my sisters place. My brother Ruud could not be there because he just had had a hip replacement operation, but in these days, with webcams and skype, he still was able to join virtually…:-)

Just before coming back to Malaysia I went to Groningen to meet Ruud and his loved ones. He was already able to walk in the garden with his crutches and could point out to Jur where the walnuts were hanging. I stayed overnight and met his two sons, my favourite nephews.

Harvesting walnuts

Two nephews



I also met many friends, former students, ex-colleagues etc. Often for a drink and food, so not surprisingly I gained weight again, will have to work hard to slim down. The weather remained nice and warm with often spectacular sunsets.

It was only during the last few days of my stay in the Netherlands that the weather became autumn-like, with some heavy rain and lower temperatures. But altogether I have been very fortunate, the weather gods must love me. On  my way to Schiphol airport I finally could take a picture of the trees near my apartment in autumn colors.

I will end this post with a picture of my new watch. It is a Pebble watch, synchronised with my iPhone. It gives a warning when a SMS or email has arrived and you can choose between many different displays of the time.

Pebble watch2013-10-16 09.36.26

Europe trip 2013 Barcelona & Amsterdam

After our two-week trip through Europe we needed some time to relax and do our laundry. Only a few days because we had one more destination on our program: Barcelona in Spain. The town of Gaudi, the country of paella and sangria!

It was a short visit of three nights only. Instead of looking for a hotel we found a nice apartment, a loft on the fourth floor of an old building, near to the Ramblas and in the middle of the Red Light district…:-) The dimensions must have been something like 30 x 5 meter!

Of course we spent most of our time in Barcelona visiting and admiring the wonderful works of art created by Gaudi.. A pity that we were not the only ones! I have created a separate album about Barcelona on my Stuif’s Adventures site. Here only four pictures of the places we visited
We had lots of tapas and sangria. Not always top quality. One night we had really a wonderful meal in a local tapas bar suggested to us by the hostess of our apartment. Spanish style, We started our dinner at about 10 pm..:-). Delicious food. The name of the restaurant is Cañete and you should not miss it when you visit Barcelona!
Back in Amsterdam, we had a few days left before Aric went back to Malaysia. The weather was still ok, so we looked for some more of the KLM houses. And we visited the Rijksmuseum, opened last year after an extensive renovation. With a spectacular result, I will post a separate blog later about it. We had a look at the Night Watch by Rembrandt, one of the most famous paintings in the world. Also here we were not the only ones…:-)
Night Watch

Here are a few more pictures of these last few days in Amsterdam