Earlier this month, there was a lot of news that scientists over at Cern’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) had potentially discovered the Higgs boson. Named after the British scientist (Peter Higgs) who dreamed it up in 1964, it’s an exciting to think we have evidence that it exists. A few weeks ago, I learned in a Daily Mail article that in the 1970’s, a Pakistani physicist named Dr. Abdus Salam also predicted the existence of the Higgs boson particle. Salam was the first Pakistani to win a Nobel prize in Physics. However, he was later shunned in his own country by Muslim fundamentalists when they took control of Pakistan in the 1970’s. It seems that he is from a different sect of Islam that is considered heretical in the eyes of Sunni Muslims. He ended up living out his days in England until he died in 1996. When I read the article, I had the impression that he won the Nobel Prize for predicting the the existence of the particle, which is not true at all. The article is actually wrong.
Last night, I was watching The Elegant Universe, a very nice 3-part series on string theory that came out in 2003, and hosted by noted American physicist Brian Greene. While I’m watching this, there is a clip from the 1979 Nobel Prize ceremony, and there on screen are three fellows winning the Nobel Prize in Physics for work on the electroweak theory, and the fellow in middle appears to be South Asian! Who is that? I do some searching and lo and behold, the fellow in the middle is none other than Dr. Abdus Salam.
SHELDON L. GLASHOW, ABDUS SALAM and STEVEN WEINBERG for their contributions to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, including inter alia the prediction of the weak neutral current.
So yes, the Daily Mail article had some of its facts incorrect, which I think is the sign of the times here, because I don’t think these writers are doing their due dilligence in researching (or minimizing typographical errors!) In any case, Dr. Salam is huge, because he was one of three physicists who independently came up up with the electroweak theory.
I’m sorry for geeking out, but I do loves me some physics. Also, I geeked a little, because Dr. Salam came up earlier in the month because of the Higgs boson annoucement, and again a few weeks later while I was watching a completely unrelated episode of NOVA on PBS. Can you blame me?