The Nobel Prize for physics was announced today, which went to François Englert and Peter Higgs for the Higgs boson discovery of the subatomic particle that helps define the fabric of the universe, known to many as “the God particle.” This was a highly-anticipated announcement by the science and technology community and is one to be celebrated.
Professor Higgs first put forward the idea of the existence of the particle in 1964 while at the University of Edinburgh, but it wasn’t until last year that its discovery was confirmed through the work of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. What happened in those nearly 50 years between theory and confirmation? Many things, including the tireless work of passionate, dedicated scientists. I’d also propose that advances in new technologies and an increasing movement towards collaboration helped bridge idea to discovery.
Michael Turner, president of the American Physical Society, is quoted today in a Washington Post story reporting on the Nobel Prize saying: “Discoveries more and more involve a village. It took 10,000 people and $10 billion and 20 years to build the instrument that made this discovery.”
Big breakthroughs in science have been enabled by open discourse and the ability of new generations of scientists and inventors to “stand on the shoulders of giants,” those who came before us and who shared with us their ideas and passion. We believe the same holds true for software, which is made better through open development and sharing of code.
We’re honored and humbled that Linux was able to play a part in facilitating the discovery of Higgs boson (“Finding the Higgs was done almost entirely with Linux. Indeed, many of the scientists we’ve spoken to say it couldn’t have been done without it.”). Created nearly 30 years after Higgs first postulated the existence of the particle and 20 years before its existence would be confirmed, Linux provided one of the needed technologies with which this work could be done. Additionally, the principles of mass collaboration that informed the way thousands of scientists over five decades were able to achieve a critical discovery is embraced daily by the Linux community.
The Linux Foundation is preparing to host LinuxCon and CloudOpen Europe in Edinburgh in just a couple weeks. How appropriate that Linux played a small role in the Higgs Boson discovery that was rooted in that very city.
Congratulations to Mr. Englert and Mr. Higgs and the 10,000 others who contributed to this achievement. We are grateful.