Higgs boson: Stop calling it the 'God particle', says Peter Higgs
Tomorrow, the BBC is airing a special on Peter Higgs, the British particle physicist. Higgs is the namesake of the Higgs boson, the particle discovered at CERN last summer that is sometimes called "the God particle."
Higgs will use his BBC soapbox to ask us all to please stop it with the whole God thing.
"First of all, I'm an atheist," The Telegraph quotes him as telling the BBC.
"The second thing is I know that name was a kind of joke and not a very good one."
This is by no means the first time Higgs has mentioned his dislike for the term "God particle," and he is by no means the only person to harbour such feelings.
After a recent Star story about how scientists had confirmed the particle they discovered last July really was the long-sought Higgs, one reader had this to say:
"While I love science and stories about what's happening at the LHC (Large Hadron Collider), I take great offense to your use of the term "god particle" to describe something that has absolutely nothing to do with god. This is science, ma'am, not blind faith and ignorant belief."
"God particle" is certainly a silly name for the Higgs, whether you believe in God or not. Why should the particle (really more like a field) that gives all other particles mass be the "God" particle?
It was a term that two book authors used to describe the (then-undiscovered) Higgs in 1993, because, they said, their publisher wouldn't let them call it "the goddamn particle," for how tough it would be to discover.
The name sort of stuck. The question is: is calling the Higgs a "God particle" an unnecessary distraction, or did it help the public latch on to what is otherwise a tough and obscure physics question?
If it did help draw the public's interest, is that worth it?
Higgs is probably not the only one with an opinion on that question.
The BBC special airs tomorrow, Wednesday night, and can be viewed online here.
Kate Allen is the Star's science and technology reporter. Find her online at @katecallen.