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

AFP/Getty Images
June 28, 2017 | NPR · Cardinal George Pell, a key adviser to Pope Francis, has been ordered to appear in a Melbourne court next month. The Archdiocese of Sydney says he will return from Rome to fight the charges.
 

AP
June 28, 2017 | NPR · The charges against the agent were brought amid lingering animosity over the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to protest restrictions on use of federal lands.
 

Getty Images
June 28, 2017 | NPR · The curiously named submersible wrapped up its inaugural voyage last week. And, as the British Antarctic Survey noted Wednesday, Boaty acquitted itself well on the seven-week expedition.
 

Arts & Life

June 28, 2017 | NPR · Michael Bond, creator of the beloved Paddington Bear books, died Tuesday at 91. The classic children’s book character is a scruffy little bear prone to accidents, but he means well.
 

June 28, 2017 | FA · Director Edgar Wright rejects computer-generated unreality and instead focuses on breathtaking driving in his new heist thriller. Critic David Edelstein says the result is terrifically entertaining.
 

AP
June 28, 2017 | NPR · “Mr. and Mrs. Brown first met Paddington on a railway platform” — and readers first met Paddington with those words in 1958. Bond, who died Tuesday, turned that bear into an unforgettable friend.
 

Music

WXPN
June 28, 2017 | WXPN-FM · While making City Music, Morby looked to Lou Reed’s legacy for the confidence to experiment. He tells World Cafe about the album and the role New York has played in his story.
 

Courtesy of the artist
June 28, 2017 | NPR · There’s more to this roots-music business than high-energy dance tunes. Kick back with some soothing voices and some free-spirited instrumentals.
 

Mountain Stage
June 28, 2017 | NPR · Hear the blues-folk musician’s soulful, gravelly thunder return to Mountain Stage at the Culture Center Theater in West Virginia.
 

Get the KRCC iPhone App

The Writer's Almanac

Radiolab