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

Gabriella Demczuk
April 30, 2017 | NPR · As President Donald Trump crosses the 100-day marker this weekend, photographer Gabriella Demczuk explores some of the major events that have transpired in the White House and on Capitol Hill.
 

April 30, 2017 | NPR · Some 350 years ago, Milton’s epic chronicled the Fall of Man, wrought by the red fruit. Except that it might’ve been a fig or peach or pear. An ancient Roman made a pun – and the apple myth was born.
 

Franziska Barczyk for NPR
April 30, 2017 | NPR · A researcher found that some of them don’t want to be “rescued.” And that in one community, sex work is a traditional occupation for married women.
 

Arts & Life

April 30, 2017 | NPR · Some 350 years ago, Milton’s epic chronicled the Fall of Man, wrought by the red fruit. Except that it might’ve been a fig or peach or pear. An ancient Roman made a pun – and the apple myth was born.
 

Dark Harbor Stories/Milk
April 30, 2017 | NPR · Israeli playwright Sigal Avin teamed up with her friend David Schwimmer to produce #ThatsHarassment. The short films — some inspired by her own experiences — aim to clarify what harassment is.
 

NPR
April 30, 2017 | NPR · Fitzgerald wrote most of his best work in his 20s, and the stories in this new collection — all unpublished or uncollected — demonstrate how hard it was for him to deliver what readers wanted.
 

Music

Courtesy of the artist
April 30, 2017 | NPR · The Irish singer says she wanted to get “back to basics” for her latest album, an autobiographical collection of smoky torch songs, soul and blues that departs from her signature rockabilly sound.
 

Redferns/Getty
April 29, 2017 | NPR · Rick Springfield, Tunde Adebimpe, Kenny Chesney and members of Talking Heads and The Feelies share how music moved — and moved us — in Jonathan Demme’s movies.
 

Courtesy of the artist
April 29, 2017 | NPR · Hear new music by country veteran Marty Stuart, former Gossip frontwoman Beth Ditto, psychedelic hip-hop duo Shabazz Palaces and more in April’s playlist, curated by public-radio hosts.
 

Get the KRCC iPhone App

The Writer's Almanac

Radiolab