Must Reads

The Man Who Coined 'The God Particle' Explains: It Was A Joke!

This is what researchers at the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider expect a Higgs boson to look like. The Higgs boson is the subatomic particle that scientists say gives everything in the universe mass. i i

hide captionThis is what researchers at the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider expect a Higgs boson to look like. The Higgs boson is the subatomic particle that scientists say gives everything in the universe mass.

ATLAS Experiment/CERN
This is what researchers at the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider expect a Higgs boson to look like. The Higgs boson is the subatomic particle that scientists say gives everything in the universe mass.

This is what researchers at the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider expect a Higgs boson to look like. The Higgs boson is the subatomic particle that scientists say gives everything in the universe mass.

ATLAS Experiment/CERN

We've explained it many times: Physicists are irked when we in the media call the Higgs Boson, "The God Particle."

The Higgs is important because the elusive subatomic particle is believed to give everything its mass. But as Marcelo Gleiser — of NPR's 13.7 — explained, the nickname doesn't quite explain the particle because while it "does have something of a centralizing influence," it's "nothing quite divine."

It's misnomer, even stupid, some physicists say.

All Things Considered spoke to the man credited with giving the particle its moniker. In 1993, Dick Teresi co-wrote The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? with Leon Lederman, the Nobel prize winning physicist.

He told Melissa Block that the name was born out of a joke, a working title he never thought the publisher would buy.

Dick Teresi Explains How 'The God Particle' Came To Be

In fact, he said, "for us being atheists, it's kind of a scary, evil kind of particle that obfuscates what's really going on."

So what does he say to his detractors?

"They protest too much," he said. In fact, the name will likely stick, he said, just like another famous deregatory term has — "The Big Bang."

Teresi added that in truth, he didn't resent most physicists for complaining. The only one he has a problem with is Peter Higgs himself.

Dick Teresi On All Things Considered

Six others helped discover that particle, he said.

Yet the Higgs is "the only major particle that the discoverer, or the theorist, named after himself," he said.

If there's a misnomer, it's Higgs.

Much more of Melissa's conversation with Teresi on tonight's All Things Considered. Check here for a list of local stations that carry the program. We'll post audio of the as-aired interview on this post later tonight.

Update at 6:01 p.m. ET. An Explanation:

We should have included an explanation for the Higgs. Here is a comprehensive one we provided back in July of last year.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: