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
December 4, 2016 | NPR · Some are in an uproar over President-elect Donald Trump’s phone call to Taiwan’s president. Yet the Chinese leadership has shown no interest in escalating the matter.
 

AFP/Getty Images
December 4, 2016 | NPR · In a surprising move, John Key said it was the “right time” to leave politics. Key, who spent eight years as leader of his country and his party, says he will formally step down on Dec. 12.
 

December 4, 2016 | NPR · Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II discusses news that the Army Corps of Engineers denied an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline.
 

Arts & Life

December 4, 2016 | NPR · In the early 1970s surrealist icon Salvador Dalí published a lavish cookbook called Les Dîners de Gala. Decades later, the book is being republished for a new and much wider audience.
 

December 4, 2016 | NPR · Lauren Graham is the fast-talking Lorelei Gilmore, on Gilmore Girls, a role she recently reprised on Netflix. She tells NPR’s Ailsa Chang about her memoir, Talking As Fast As I Can.
 

December 4, 2016 | NPR · The Red Car, the latest novel by Marcy Dermansky, features a protagonist who’s haunted by a former boss. NPR’s Ailsa Chang speaks with Dermansky about the fantastical and dark novel.
 

Music

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
December 4, 2016 | NPR · The score for the new film, which stars Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy grappling with the death of her husband, was written by 29-year old English composer Mica Levi (a.k.a. Micachu).
 

Getty Images
December 4, 2016 | NPR · A Canadian police department jokingly said they’d punish drunk drivers by making them listen to Nickelback. That got us thinking: What song would you pick as punishment? We asked, you answered.
 

Courtesy of the artist
December 4, 2016 | NPR · The Minneapolis singer and rapper spent her early life deep in the Pentecostal church — and shut away from secular music. When she moved to Houston, Texas, everything changed.
 

Get the KRCC iPhone App

The Writer's Almanac

Radiolab