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An Aerogramme From Professor Higgs, Nobel Winner

Well, it's happened. British scientist Peter Higgs has won a Nobel Prize for proposing the Higgs boson particle as part of a mechanism that explains how things in the universe came to have mass.

Higgs seems to be lying low today so far — a colleague told The New York Times that Higgs had "gone off by himself for a few days without saying where" and that a reporter seeking an interview recently had been "sent away with a flea in his ear."

As it happens, when I was just starting out in journalism 16 years ago, I wrote an email to Higgs at the University of Edinburgh asking him how the particle everyone was looking for had come to bear his name. (The Higgs is also known as the "God Particle" — a name that started out as a joke and stuck.)

I had just finished grad school in physics and was nervous to be emailing the guy whose name had figured so prominently in my classes. (Is this what journalists do? Just email famous people asking questions?)

I didn't hear anything for a month. But then this lovely aerogramme appeared in the mail. I've kept it in my desk ever since.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

David Kestenbaum is a correspondent for NPR, covering science, energy issues and, most recently, the global economy for NPR's multimedia project Planet Money. David has been a science correspondent for NPR since 1999. He came to journalism the usual way — by getting a Ph.D. in physics first.