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14 October 2013

Nobel Prize Winner Peter Higgs Doesn't Own a Cell Phone or Use the Internet

Peter Higgs (left) and François Englert (Reuters)
"There's only one telephone in Nobel Prize winner Peter Higgs' flat. No internet. No mobile phone...   In 1964 he didn't have a pocket calculator, let alone a desktop computer. He came up with his theory using nothing grander than a fountain pen."

Nobel Prize winner Peter Higgs doesn't own a cellphone or use the internet
by Chris Gayomali, the week.com, 
8 October 2013


No wonder the committee is having a hard time tracking him down
The 2013 Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded this morning to two European scientists in what has been widely deemed "the least surprising Nobel of the year."

This year's $1.25 million prize goes to a pair of retired theoretical physicists, 80-year-old Francois Englert of Belgium and 84-year-old Peter Higgs of England, for their work concerning the elusive Higgs boson, which was originally dreamed up by the scientists in 1964.

Last summer's discovery of the so-called "God particle" has been at the center of a multi-billion dollar effort at the CERN research center in Switzerland to understand why objects in the universe harbor mass. The Higgs boson, a subatomic particle, has long been held as a missing puzzle piece in the Standard Model of Physics. It is the invisible glue that keeps the atoms comprising our universe's planets, stars, and human beings clumped together. Without it, the theory goes, our atoms would be zipping around all over the place.

The Washington Post reports that Englert accepted the award during a teleconference soon after the announcement was made, "and did not sound particularly surprised as he answered a few questions about enduring unknowns in physics."

Higgs, on the other hand, has yet to materialize. Nobel committee officials say they haven't been able to reach him despite multiple phone calls and emails.

Higgs, as it turns out, is something of a reclusive genius — the kind that shies away from the spotlight. In an exceptionally rare interview with BBC News in February last year, it was revealed that the physicist may be just as hard to pin down as the particle named after him.

He lives quietly in Edinburgh's New Town but can often be spotted in the capital's concert halls and museums. He's in his eighties now, a grandfather, and retired from his role as Professor Emeritus at Edinburgh University.

As such it's not unreasonable if he chooses to spend most of his time out of the public eye. [BBC News]

Here's the really interesting part, though:

There's only one telephone in Peter Higgs' flat. No internet. No mobile phone. He's no Luddite, but it's worth remembering he did his most celebrated work in a different technological age.

In 1964 he didn't have a pocket calculator, let alone a desktop computer. He came up with his theory using nothing grander than a fountain pen. [BBC News]

The most coveted award in the realm of scientific discovery, more than four decades in the making, and no one can reach the winner. Last July, when news broke that the Higgs boson was briefly glimpsed in the subatomic wreckage of CERN's Large Hadron Collider, Higgs had this to say to reporters: "It's very nice to be right sometimes."

http://theweek.com/article/index/250762/nobel-prize-winner-peter-higgs-doesnt-own-a-cellphone-or-use-the-internet

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