World News

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Nobel winner Higgs hails colleagues

Published 10/12/2013|23:12

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Peter Higgs, left, receives his Nobel Prize for physics from Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf

British scientist Peter Higgs has paid tribute to fellow scientists as he received his Nobel Prize for physics at a ceremony in Stockholm.

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With their families cheering as they bowed three times in line with Nobel protocol, Professor Higgs and Francois Englert of Belgium received the prize for their theories on the Higgs particle, which helps explain how sub-atomic particles get their mass.

In a speech at the banquet at the Swedish capital's Concert Hall following the prize ceremony, Prof Higgs paid tribute to fellow scientist Robert Brout, who died in 2011.

"It is a matter of great regret for both of us that Robert Brout did not live to share the prize with us. The fact that it has been awarded to just the two of us implicitly recognises his contribution, as is right," he said.

Prof Higgs also thanked the scientists at the CERN laboratory in Geneva that confirmed the existence of the Higgs particle last year.

"It was a great achievement by all the people involved, and we are grateful to them for enabling us to be here today," he said.

Other guests receiving Nobel awards from King Carl XVI Gustaf included Ahmet Uzumcu, director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

He recalled the "burning, blinding and suffocating" horrors of chemical weapons as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr Uzumcu said such toxic tools of warfare have an "especially nefarious legacy", from the trenches of the First World War to the poison gas attacks in Syria this year.

"You cannot see them. You cannot smell them. And they offer no warning for the unsuspecting," Mr Uzumcu said as he collected the award in Oslo on behalf of the group.

"And we only need to look at the fate of the survivors of such attacks - people destined to spend the rest of their lives suffering unbearable physical and psychological pain - to understand why such weapons must be banned," he added.

The OPCW was formed to enforce a 1997 international convention outlawing chemical weapons. It worked largely out of the limelight until this year, when it received its most challenging mission to date: overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile.

The Nobel Peace Prize was announced on October 11, days before Syria officially joined the OPCW as its 190th member state.

"It is, of course, a huge challenge for the OPCW to manage to destroy all these weapons under the conditions of war and chaos prevailing in the country," Nobel committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland said.

"The anonymous inspectors from the OPCW do an extremely important and difficult job."

Mr Jagland and Mr Uzumcu paid tribute to the late Nelson Mandela, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with FW de Klerk in 1993. Mandela was also honored at the separate ceremony for other Nobel prizes.

Mr Jagland called on the US and Russia to speed up the elimination of their own stockpiles and urged the six countries that have not signed or ratified the chemical weapons convention - Angola, North Korea, Egypt, South Sudan, Israel and Burma - to do so.

Literature laureate Alice Munro, 82, was too frail to travel to the Swedish capital so the Canadian short-story writer's daughter, Jenny Munro, accepted the award in her place.

"Over the years, numerous scientists have received their well-deserved reward in this auditorium for having solved some of the great enigmas of the universe," Swedish Academy permanent secretary Peter Englund said. "But, you, Alice Munro, like few others, have come close to solving the greatest mystery of them all: the human heart and its caprices."

US-based scientists Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel shared the chemistry award for developing powerful computer models used to predict chemical reactions.

In his speech, Mr Levitt used the example of a car to illustrate how fast computers have developed in recent years and helped advance science.

"If cars had improved like computers did, then the new model would cost 20 kronor, would go a million miles an hour, would carry 50,000 people in comfort and park in a shoebox. This powerful change has pushed all science ahead," he said.

Americans James Rothman and Randy Schekman and German-American Thomas Sudhof collected the medicine prize for their breakthroughs in explaining how the transport system in our cells works.

The economics award, which is not an original Nobel Prize but created in Nobel's honour by Sweden's central bank in 1968, was given to Americans Eugene Fama, Lars Peter Hansen and Robert Shiller for their methods on studying trends in asset markets.

Press Association

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