Is It The God Particle, Or The Goddamn Particle?

The media rumpus over the discovery of the elusive Higgs boson subatomic particle has now reached critical mass (yuk yuk), but one question that apparently hasn’t been settled is how it was dubbed “the God particle.”

From yesterday’s Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Michio Kaku:

The press has dubbed the Higgs boson the “God particle,” a nickname that makes many physicists cringe. But there is some logic to it. According to the Bible, God set the universe into motion as he proclaimed “Let there be light!”

But NPR’s All Things Considered told a different story on Wednesday in this exchange between anchor Robert Siegel and Victoria Martin,  a lecturer in physics and astronomy at the University of Edinburgh who studied with Peter Higgs:

SIEGEL: I want to ask you about this particle’s nickname, the “God particle.” What did Higgs, who I’ve read is an atheist, think about the nickname the “God particle”?

MARTIN: I’m sure – I actually haven’t ever asked him this directly, but I’m sure he doesn’t like it. Almost all particle physicists detest that name. It was actually Leon Lederman, who’s a Nobel laureate, that came up with it. But he was trying to call it “that goddamn particle,” and that wasn’t allowed by the publishers so it became the “God particle.”

So the name stuck and I think it’s fine because then people know what we’re talking about. But secretly, all of us hate the name, the “God particle.”

So Kaku’s WSJ piece is half-right.

Close enough for journalism, these days.

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One Response to Is It The God Particle, Or The Goddamn Particle?

  1. When scientists figure out it’s actually the “Dog” particle, things are going to change around here, I can tell you. We’ll see who does the fetching then.

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