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.

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.

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.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
 

Comments are closed.

News

WKAR
April 8, 2020 | WKAR · Many state legislative sessions were cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now lawmakers, itching to complete state business, are reconvening despite heath warnings not to.
 

AP
April 8, 2020 | NPR · Mail volume is way down, and the U.S. Postal Service is running out of cash. Advocates want Congress to provide additional funding in the next rescue package.
 

Getty Images
April 8, 2020 | NPR · The virtual happy hour has taken on huge importance at a time when life is otherwise in lockdown. Workers are learning a lot more about their colleagues in the process.
 

Arts & Life

April 8, 2020 | NPR · Casey Schwartz writes of her reliance on Adderall and her realization that the focus it brought was not genuine. But she leaves readers wanting to hear more on the relationship of attention and love.
 

PopTV
April 7, 2020 | NPR · The gentle Canadian sitcom with the rabid international fanbase came to an end last night after six seasons. Included: A tearful wedding, many tearful goodbyes and one last weird Moira pronunciation.
 

Getty Images
April 7, 2020 | NPR · The multi-faceted and musically voracious producer died one day after his 64th birthday, which was Monday, at home in New York City. He had symptoms consistent with those caused by COVID-19.
 

Music

NPR
April 8, 2020 | NPR · From her “quarantine shed” in Hawaii, King Princess performs three songs from Cheap Queen in ways we never would have imagined.
 

Getty Images
April 7, 2020 | NPR · The folk and country star had been hospitalized on a ventilator for more than a week.
 

Getty Images
April 7, 2020 | NPR · The music of this quintessential Nashville songwriter and lifelong independent spirit makes room for the wide range of emotions that careen through people as they stumble and dance through life.
 

Get the KRCC iPhone App

The Writer's Almanac

Radiolab