It’s time for everyone to stop calling the Higgs boson the “God Particle”. For one thing, it seems to have been publisher’s trick to boost sales of a physics book by Leon Lederman (here at UC) and Dick Teresi. As the Telegraph reports,
Lederman wrote in the book “God particle”: “This boson is so central to the state of physics today, so crucial to our final understanding of the structure of matter, yet so elusive, that I have given it a nickname: the God particle.
“Why God particle? The publisher wouldn’t let us call it the Goddamn particle, though that might be a more appropriate title, given its villainous nature and the expense it is causing.”
But Higgs himself doesn’t like this:
The 83-year-old scientist, who lives in Edinburgh, insisted the reference was not funny and was actually misleading.
He came up with the theory of a subatomic particle, since dubbed the Higgs boson, which would explain the mystery of how things have mass.
But the professor wants people to stop referring to it as the “God particle” because he does not believe the particle holding the physical fabric of the universe together is the work of one almighty creator.
According to Prof Higgs, the nickname actually started as a joke, adding that it was “not a very good one”.
It’s not surprising that a godless person (and future Nobel Laureate, I suspect) would be ticked off that the particle he predicted should get a name that smacks of divinity:
Prof Higgs, explained his distaste for the term in a BBC Scotland interview. He said: “First of all, I’m an atheist.
“The second thing is I know that name was a kind of joke and not a very good one. I think he shouldn’t have done that as it’s so misleading.”
I’ve been reading a lot about the Higgs boson, trying desperately to understand how a field can also be a particle, and how that field can give mass to other particles in the Standard Model of physics. But I suspect that this is one of those nonintuitive oddities of modern physics that will forever defy my understanding.