Since this is a blog about science and journalism I’m going to take the opportunity to have a moan about the nickname the “God particle”.  A name loved by the press but hated by most scientists.

One reason to dislike the name is simply that the Higgs boson has nothing to do with God.  Finding it would have nothing to say about whether God exists.  Nor is there any useful analogy between the particle and God.  Other particles are not thought to sit around singing hosannas to the Higgs boson.

A second reason is that the nickname overstates the importance of the Higgs boson.  My last post mentioned that the Standard Model predicted the existence of a number of new particles, including the W and Z bosons.  Had the W and Z bosons been shown not to exist this would have been a lethal blow to a large chunk of the Standard Model.  If the Higgs does not exist then most of the Standard Model would be salvageable in some form.  Especially as alternatives to the Higgs mechanism have been postulated.

Still, at least one scientist  probably doesn’t hate the name.  Leon Lederman is the Nobel prize-winner who coined the name as the title of his 1993 book.  A recent Guardian article stated that “Leon Lederman gave the Higgs boson a nickname: the God particle, because he considered it critical to our understanding of matter“.  The cynic in me thinks that Lederman gave it the nickname because he realised a bit of hyperbole helps shift copy.

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