To boldy go... where no museum has gone before - and bring fundamental physics to the people

Stephen Hawking and Peter Higgs back launch of one of the most ambitious exhibitions in Science Museum's 150-year history

Science Editor

They are stellar names in the scientific firmament and today they sprinkled their stardust over the Science Museum in London on the eve of one of the most ambitious exhibitions in its 150-year history.

Stephen Hawking, the world's most famous living scientist, and Peter Higgs, whose name is synonymous with the most famous atomic particle, made separate public appearances at the museum to mark the opening of Collider, a bold endeavour to bring fundamental physics to the people.

The exhibition attempts to explain the highly complex machine at the heart of the search for the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle that Professor Higgs first proposed in 1964 to explain why matter has mass.

The real Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is sited at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern) in Geneva but now there is a far smaller and simplified version in central London which tells the story of how this most complicated and intricate of scientific instruments explores the fundamental building blocks of the Universe.

With his trademark wit, Professor Hawking said he was disappointed that the Higgs had been found, partly because life would be far more interesting as it would mean that the Standard Model of physics would have to be re-thought.

Click here to see more pictures from the exhibition

"But the discovery of the new particle came at a personal cost. I had a bet with Gordon Kane of Michigan University that the Higgs particle wouldn't be found. The Nobel Prize cost me $100," Professor Hawking said.

Professor Higgs, long retired from Edinburgh University, shared this year's Nobel Prize in Physics with Francois Englert of the Free University of Brussels who, independently of Higgs, carried out his own work on massive particles with his Brussels colleague Robert Brout, who died in 2011.


Professor Higgs, who disappeared for a solitary lunch when the Nobel committee was trying to telephone him about his award, was typically modest about the role of the Higgs mechanism, the process he devised to explain why some particles and objects are heavier than others - and why some have no mass at all.

Professor Peter Higgs at the Science Museum's 'Collider' exhibition in London (EPA) Professor Peter Higgs at the Science Museum's 'Collider' exhibition in London (EPA)
"I was quite worried at one time that the importance of the discovery of this particular particle was being overplayed because it was putting into the background all the other things that the LHC was supposed to do - and I thought that was not such a good idea," Professor Higgs said at a press preview of Collider.

He also said he would have liked to share his Nobel Prize with Tom Kibble of Imperial College London, who also published scientific papers in 1964 and 1967 predicting the existence of an invisible "force field" pervading the Universe that imparts mass to matter.

Professor Stephen Hawking during a talk at the Science Museum (PA) Professor Stephen Hawking during a talk at the Science Museum (PA)
Under the rules of the Nobel Prize, however, no more than three living scientists can be given the award.

"What the Nobel committee did was to award it to the two survivors of the first three, but my opinion before the award was announced was that if they were going to award it to three people then they should include Tom Kibble," Professor Higgs said.

"His role was important and I think it's perhaps a shame that he's been missed out. But I do think that the way these prizes are awarded recognises Brout's contribution posthumously," he said.

Both Higgs and Hawking were in agreement about the next big challenge of the LHC, which is to reveal the nature of the "dark matter" and "dark energy" that pervades the Universe, but which for some reason is largely invisible to scientific instruments.

One theory is that it exists as anti-matter, or supersymmetric particles that match the particles making up the matter that we can detect.

A visitor to the Science Museum walks towards a photograph of the workings of the Large Hadron Collider (Getty) A visitor to the Science Museum walks towards a photograph of the workings of the Large Hadron Collider (Getty)
"I think the discovery of supersymmetric partners for the known particles would revolutionise our understanding of the Universe," Professor Hawking said.

Professor Higgs agreed that the existence of supersymmetry is perhaps one of the biggest remaining questions in fundamental physics, and one that the LHC is in a good position to answer.

"I'd like to know about what I hope the LHC will soon find the answer to, which is whether there are supersymmetric particles beyond the standard model and whether these do indeed provide the candidate for the dark matter," Professor Higgs said.

Rolf Heuer, the director of Cern, said that the moment has now come for science to explore the dark energy and dark matter that have remained so elusive to particle physicists and astronomers.

"It has taken us 50 years to complete the standard model of the Universe, but 95 per cent of it is still unknown. It's high time that we enter the dark universe," Dr Heuer said.

And for anyone tempted to believe that the Collider in South Kensington is anything other than a wonderful museum exhibition, he added: "The exhibition is very nice, but the real thing is still in Geneva."

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam