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The God Particle August 9, 2007

Posted by gordonwatts in physics life, politics.
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When the NYTimes published its recent article about the Higgs hunt, the author, Dennis Overbye, used “The God Particle” — its nick name. This nick name comes from a book by Leon Lederman about the hunt for the Higgs, and is titled… yes you guessed it, The God Particle.

I saw statements like the following on the blogs:

Apparently, Overbye also got a lot of email complaining that the use of “The God Particle” ruined an otherwise perfectly good article. In fact, he got so much feed back that he felt compelled to write an essay talking about it:

But physicists groan when they hear it referred to as the “God particle” in newspapers and elsewhere (and the temptation to repeat it, given science reporters’ desperate need for colorful phrases in an abstract and daunting field, is irresistible). Even when these physicists approve of what you have written about their craft, they grumble that the media are engaging in sensationalism, or worse.

I have to say — I don’t get it. Sure, I’m not a fan many things that have happened to the USA in recent times that can be traced to organized religion — or at least people wrapping themselves in the religious flag. But to deny myself the ability to use those word that are connected with religion because I might be seen as giving support to that??

I have the same problem with the words pro-choice, pro-life, abortion, etc. If you are pro-choice you should not call yourself anti-abortion — because that gets the abortion word there and that scares people. Are people really that dumb? Does America just have these knee-jerk reactions based on the words and not what we mean? As if to support someone that disagrees with me, you’ll note I’ve taken perhaps one the most hot-button issues out there as an example.🙂 I suppose in a country where the presidential election will be fought based on 30 second advertisements where every word mentioned goes through poling and a focus group…

I think Overbye’s conclusion — get used to it, we’ll be calling it the God Particle for a long time — is correct. Lets work on finding it. Whoever finds it can then help write the press release as a reward. I’m willing to bet a good deal of beer that it will be very hard for even the scientists who help shape that press release to avoid the words “God Particle”.🙂

Comments»

1. chip - August 9, 2007

…but you gotta admit that you wish Leon had not been quite so cute with that book title. What if it becomes the God Effective Potential?

2. Kevin - August 9, 2007

If it did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it.

3. M. Simon - August 19, 2007

Engineers have mating male and female connectors. Some times the mating connectors are clustered.

What do physicists have?

A God particle is nice. Is it enough?

4. Charlie - August 23, 2007

When I attended a talk that Lederman gave a few years ago, I believe he claimed that the title had been suggested and strongly supported by an editor/publisher. I definitely got the sense that he didn’t care for the name all that well…

5. gordonwatts - August 24, 2007

Yes — that makes a lot of sense. I suspect that is what happened as well.


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