Five decades after they first theorized the existence of the so-called "God particle," physicists Francois Englert of Belgium and Peter Higgs of Britain won the 2013 Nobel Prize in physics today, the AP reports. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences praised the scientists' "theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles." The AP earlier identified the Higgs particle as one of five scientific breakthroughs that had yet to win a Nobel prize; the elusive particle's existence was finally confirmed just last year, and that breakthrough was considered too recent to win the 2012 award.
Higgs' and Englert's theories help explain the universe's origins by explaining how matter got mass and formed planets and stars, Reuters explains. The prize committee had a bit of a conundrum, considering thousands of scientists were involved in actually confirming those theories at CERN, and the prize can only be shared between three people at most; it got around that by not choosing anyone from CERN at all. (Even so, a CERN director said he was "thrilled" at the news.) "I am overwhelmed to receive this award," said Higgs in a statement. "I hope this recognition of fundamental science will help raise awareness of the value of blue-sky research." Englert described his feelings, amusingly, as "not very unpleasant" before saying he was "very, very happy." Odd side note: The prize announcement was delayed an hour, which is quite unusual; no reason was given. An academy rep said Higgs initially could not be reached, but didn't say whether that was the reason for the delay. (Read more Francois Englert stories.)