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

AP
September 16, 2014 | NPR · By 2017, the two American companies are expected to take over a job that NASA has relied upon Russia to perform: shuttling astronauts to the International Space Station.
 

Courtesy of Samaritan's Purse
September 16, 2014 | NPR · The doctor spoke of “the horror that this disease visits upon its victims” and told a joint Senate committee hearing that he favors U.S. military intervention to fight it.
 

September 16, 2014 | NPR · The deaths of children under 5 has dropped by 49 percent since 1990. There are many reasons why, from better vaccines and health workers to “kangaroo mother care.”
 

Arts & Life

September 16, 2014 | NPR · Robert Siegel speaks with The New Republic editor Franklin Foer about the new book Insurrections of the Mind, a collection of seminal essays from the magazine’s first 100 years.
 

AFP/Getty Images
September 16, 2014 | NPR · Lawrence Wright’s new book examines the 1978 peace deal President Carter brokered between Egypt and Israel. During the tense summit, Carter had “never been angrier,” Wright says.
 

Fox
September 16, 2014 | NPR · Fox brings two comedies back Tuesday night that are traversing the tricky matter of central romantic plots in different ways.
 

Music

September 16, 2014 | NPR · One of the important thinkers in present-day jazz is taking his cue from the 1920′s on his latest project. Pianist Jason Moran has released All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller.
 

Courtesy of the artists
September 16, 2014 | NPR · On this week’s episode, we share new music from the producer Daniel Lanois, a previously unreleased track from a Bedhead box set, solo material from Phil Selway, and recent discovery Niagara.
 

Courtesy of the artist
September 16, 2014 | WXPN · The singer-songwriter returns to the show to play songs from his new two-disc retrospective.
 

Get the KRCC iPhone App

The Writer's Almanac

Radiolab