The 2008 Physics Nobel Prize

The announcement has been made. It’s for spontaneously broken symmetry in particle physics and it is to Nambu (1/2 – “for the discovery of the mechanism of spontaneous broken symmetry in subatomic physics”) and Kobayashi (1/4) and Maskawa (1/4) (- “for the discovery of the origin of the broken symmetry which predicts the existence of at least three families of quarks in nature”). It’s all about what might be better termed “hidden symmetries” in Nature, showing that the world (the structure of fundamental particle physics, specifically) is in fact much simpler if looked at in the right way. It is a powerful technique that does not just propose what the hidden patterns (symmetries) are, but tells you what the consequences of those patterns are in the form of predictions such that physicists can go out and measure those predictions and verify the existence of those symmetries. In some sense, this type of approach is the driving force behind a lot of fundamental particle physics these days – finding the hidden, simpler structure that lurks under the surface.

Here’s the announcement:

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