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By Devin McGinty, Social Media Specialist

Recently, the final answer on the long-running quiz show Jeopardy involved an important thesis written in 1954. The category was difficult and the clue was tricky, throwing off two of the three contestants, who answered incorrectly.

A 2013 Laureate, this British man wrote a 1954 thesis on “Problems in the Theory of Molecular Vibrations.”

“Who is…Stephen Hawking?” Nice try, but if that was your response you wouldn’t be advancing to play another day. Don’t feel bad, the two incorrect contestants came to the same conclusion. But let’s keep playing, and let’s think about it this a little more before that smug Alex Trebek reads the correct response off of a card. (Spoiler alert below!)

The thesis was written over half a century ago, yet it was relevant enough to earn the author a Nobel Prize in physics in 2013. So, something covered in that thesis had to be relevant this decade in the field of physics, specifically, molecular physics. Starting to figure out? 

Let’s also factor in that Hawking is currently 74, which means he was born in 1942. Now we can eliminate him as a possible solution. Yes, he is British, and undeniably genius – but it’s unlikely he was working on a thesis at age 12 (but would it surprise you if he was?).

So, if you could compute all that while the Final Jeopardy music hummed across the sound stage, you’d respond with the correct question, much like eventual winner, Philp Tiu. Drumroll please… 


“Who is…Peter Higgs?” He received his PhD in 1954 for his thesis, “Some Problems in the Theory of Molecular Vibrations.” Fast forward 59 years, Higgs becomes co-recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics, along with Francois Englert. According to the official Nobel Prize Announcement he received the award for “the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.” You may have heard of him when the Higgs Boson discovery was first announced in 2012.

Read other dissertations and theses related to Higgs Boson from PQDT Open , and if you have access to the full ProQuest Dissertations & Theses database you can search for even more. 

17 Mar 2016

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