God Particle: Stop Calling the Higgs Boson That!

Peter Higgs would like you to stop calling the Higgs boson the "God particle."

The 83-year-old physicist, who is a professed atheist, said the moniker of the fundamental particle of the universe "started as a joke" that has escalated beyond his liking.

It first appeared in the book The God Particle, in which authors Leon Lederman and Dick Teresi wrote, "This boson is so central to the state of physics today, so crucial to our final understanding of the structure of matter, yet so elusive, that I have given it a nickname: the God particle. Why God particle? The publisher wouldn't let us call it the Goddamn particle, though that might be a more appropriate title, given its villainous nature and the expense it is causing."

Higgs predicted the boson's existence in 1964, and his theory was confirmed last year as scientists smashed atoms together in the Large Hadron Collider. The discovery helps explain what gives subatomic particles their size' and shape, thus potentially explaining how the entire universe was formed.

Unfortunately, the nickname "God particle" has sparked an unnecessary debate over science and religion. While Higgs was actually worried the nickname would offend religious people, some have seen it as proof of God's existence.

"The mysteries revealed by modern science are a constant reminder that reality is bigger than our day-to-day lives," said Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno. He also argued that scientific discoveries do naught more than expose the "personality" of God.

Meanwhile, many scientists believe the name is purely ironic when it is used at all, as they believe it could be used to disprove the creation theory.

"Humans, with their remarkable tools and their remarkable brains, may have just taken a giant step toward replacing metaphysical speculation with empirically verifiable knowledge," said Lawrence M. Krauss, an Arizona State University theoretical physicist.

Whatever further research on the particle uncovers, it is probably a good idea to listen to the man who came up with it all when it comes to nomenclature. Considering Higgs didn't come up with the "God particle" name in the first place, we should probably stop using the polarizing term to refer to the Higgs boson.

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Christine Salek

Christine is a writer and perpetual student living in Des Moines, Iowa. Her writing can also be found on Medium, the Gonzaga Bulletin, and ResearchGate.

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