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Particle physicist: Please quit calling the Higgs boson “the God particle”!

Hydrogen atom orbitals at different energy levels. An electron is most likely in a brighter one /FlorianMarquardt, GNU

An experimental particle physicist complains about the way in which implications of concepts for the public can lead to false claims. He especially resents people calling the Higgs boson the “God particle”:

For starters, you should know that the term comes from Nobel laureate Leon Lederman, who used the term as the title of a book. He explained later that he wanted to call the book “The goddamn particle”, to hint at how hard (and unsuccessful until then) the search for that elusive particle had been, but his publisher insisted on avoiding the bad word (plus, of course summoning God in his title was a choice also dictated by wanting to maximize sales).

But then, what does the idea of a “God particle” have to do with the Higgs boson? Very, very little. The Higgs boson is in fact the result of an almost magical mechanism, called in its non-trivialized version “electroweak symmetry breaking” (EWSB). The universe “chooses” one among an infinity of possible minimum-energy states to be its vacuum, and in so doing hides in an asymmetric world the symmetrical nature of the equations that describe its physics: the equations remain symmetrical, but the ground state of the theory is not. In this process, terms that describe a scalar massive particle, the Higgs, pop up in the physics equations.

If you have bothered to read the above description, you certainly do not fail to notice that the Higgs boson is not the mastermind of any tricks, but it is in fact the result of one. Calling it “the God particle” is thus plain silly.
Tommaso Dorigo, “False Claims In Particle Physics” at Science 2.0

As a matter of fact, we don’t often hear the Higgs called the “God particle” now that it’s been clearly identified and given Peter Higgs’s name. That was more common before. It’s almost like something else is bothering Dorigo but we won’t speculate.

See also: Will The Large Hadron Collider Doom Particle Physics?


Sabine Hossenfelder: Particle Physics Now Belly Up. As It Happens, Her Book Is A Solid String Of 1’S At Amazon

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