The Man Who Coined 'The God Particle' Explains: It Was A Joke! | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

The Man Who Coined 'The God Particle' Explains: It Was A Joke!

Play associated audio

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/.

WAMU 88.5

A Conversation With American Ballet Theatre's Misty Copeland (Rebroadcast)

Acclaimed ballerina Misty Copeland joined Diane to talk about her remarkable career and how she is challenging physical stereotypes that she says keep ballet stuck in the past.

NPR

White House: We Have A Beef With GMO Regulations

The White House has ordered a review of the government's system for regulating products of biotechnology, including genetically modified crops. That system has been controversial from the start.
WAMU 88.5

Danielle Allen: "Our Declaration" (Rebroadcast)

For the Fourth of July: A fresh reading of the Declaration of Independence, and how ideas of freedom and equality have been interpreted over the years.

NPR

White House: We Have A Beef With GMO Regulations

The White House has ordered a review of the government's system for regulating products of biotechnology, including genetically modified crops. That system has been controversial from the start.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.