Peter Higgs: “stop calling it the god particle”.

It turns out that the guy who first hypothesized of the Higgs Boson, Peter Higgs, doesn’t care for people calling it “the god particle”.

…the professor wants people to stop referring to it as the “God particle” because he does not believe the particle holding the physical fabric of the universe together is the work of one almighty creator.

According to Prof Higgs, the nickname actually started as a joke, adding that it was “not a very good one”.

His frustration is understandable, since lots of believers leaped on the particle’s nickname to assert that a natural explanation for how particles acquire mass is proof that supernatural processes exist.

Higgs gave the actual reason for the particle’s less-scientific moniker:

“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.”

But Prof Higgs, explained his distaste for the term in a BBC Scotland interview. He said: “First of all, I’m an atheist.

It turns out the nickname encapsulated reasons to not believe in god, not the other way around.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Glodson

    Oh man, I get sick of theists telling me about the God Particle, and how physics proves that god exists. It gets even more astonishing when said theist doesn’t actually know the science.

    I can only imagine the head trauma that Peter Higgs has dealt with over the goddamn particle.

  • Artor

    A Higgs boson walks into a church. The priest is livid and exclaims, “You can’t come in here! People are calling you the God Particle, and that’s blasphemy! Get out!”
    The Higgs boson says, “Okay, but if I leave, how will you have mass?”

    • Glodson

      It will have most of its mass from the binding energy of the strong nuclear force in the nuc—-oh, this is a joke. Sorry.

      • Drakk

        In addition, the Higgs field, or rather interaction with it, is what gives particles mass. The boson is just a leftover excitation of the field.

        • Glodson

          That is also an excellent way of ruining the joke with excessive pedantry.

  • Robert B.

    … I always liked the “God particle” joke… (everyone spends billions looking for it, but it never seems to be there)…

    But, people really think the nickname signifies an actual God? What’s next – the worshippers of Bast had it right all along, because Schrodinger’s cat is dead and yet lives?

    • Glodson

      Sadly, they do believe it. They just know the name. They don’t know what the Higgs Field is, why it is important, or even what the Standard Model is. Even revealing the way it was named isn’t enough to dissuade them. And then people like Kaku start talking about it, and it gets worse.

      • Drakk

        What? Why the antagonism towards Kaku?

        I’ve only read his books, not seen him on TV so it might be different – but while he’s a little over-optimistic about future technologies (and I’m not a fan of string theory either), I don’t see how he’s actively misleading anyone beyond what’s expected of a general-public-explanation.

        Or maybe it’s just that being a physics student I’m subconsciously correcting and not seeing it for what it is.

        Do you have specific examples?

        • Glodson

          Part of the problem is that he is good with physics, but not so much everything else.

          Part of the problem is that he grossly misrepresents some issues. He’s going the Dr Oz route.

          And then he says things like this. It… it isn’t even wrong. I mean, it is one thing to see bad reporting on science because a reporter didn’t understand. It is par for the course. It is another thing when a renowned physicist says it.

          He’s got a tendency to say things that grab attention rather than pay attention to the truth. With as much misinformation about science out there in general, we don’t need a high profile physicist who has done some good work in the past adding to it.

  • Drakk

    >> Part of the problem is that he is good with physics, but not so much everything else.

    Sir, are you trying to bait me into making the sort of statement you might expect from Rutherford? ;)

    >> And then he says things like [this].

    And…well. I certainly hadn’t seen that before. Yes, that’s rather excessively sensationalist, especially when the actual significance of the Higgs can be very easily explained to a layperson (“imagine dragging a ball through molasses…”).

    The sad thing is I can almost see where he’s coming from in that the Higgs boson was probably involved in the physics of the early (like, 10^-12 seconds) universe – the same energies the LHC tries to recreate. The idea that it caused the Big Bang is quite absurd, but there’s no question it was involved immediately after the fact.

    • Drakk

      Glodson, that was a reply to you, and not intended as a standalone comment.

    • Glodson

      The thing is that he should have know better. It is a worthless statement, a statement that got carried by a news outlet. It isn’t why the Higgs Boson is called the Higgs. I cannot see where is coming from, as noted by the posting. It is astoundingly wrong and entirely irresponsible to say.

      And when I say his knowledge outside physics is limited, I mean, he has tried to pass himself off as an omniscience expert.

      For more:

      Basically, he’s normally good in his area of expertise, but has a tendency to be overly sensational. Like anyone, each work of his should be evaluated individually, but he’s developing a reputation that is less than respectable.

  • r a

    I thought it was originally called the “goddam particle” because it was so difficult to find.