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 23, 2018 | NPR · Counties with higher rates of opioid use skewed heavily Republican in the 2016 election. What role did the opioid epidemic play in President Trump’s victory?
 

NurPhoto via Getty Images
June 23, 2018 | NPR · Is your destination too dangerous? How do you protect yourself from health threats?
 

Getty Images/Ikon Images
June 23, 2018 | NPR · Also in our weekly roundup of education news, the Federal Commission on School Safety met publicly to brainstorm ideas around how to make schools safer.
 

Arts & Life

NPR
June 23, 2018 | NPR · Jordy Rosenberg’s debut novel, Confessions of the Fox, is a speculative retelling of The Threepenny Opera as a queer love story.
 

BBC/Blueprint Television Ltd
June 23, 2018 | NPR · Grant plays popular progressive Jeremy Thorpe in the TV miniseries coming soon to Amazon. Thorpe’s political career ended in the 1970s after an ex-lover accused him of an affair and a murder plot.
 

Random House
June 23, 2018 | NPR · The book — which Lynch wrote with journalist Kristine McKenna — is intimate and honest about the filmmaker’s quirks and flaws, but doesn’t dislodge the air of mystery that’s settled around his work.
 

Music

Courtesy of the artist
June 23, 2018 | NPR · The Canadian singer known for folk and jazz switches genres, this time to write an album about the place of women in modern times.
 

Jim Marshall Photography LLC
June 22, 2018 | NPR · Never-before-heard John Coltrane recordings from a 1963 session are being released as a new album. John Coltrane’s son, Ravi Coltrane, discussesBoth Directions at Once: The Lost Album.’
 

YouTube
June 22, 2018 | NPR · As a kid, Washington thought he was the best Street Fighter player in the world. Now he proves it by championing professional gamer Combofiend.
 

Get the KRCC iPhone App

The Writer's Almanac

Radiolab