Here We Go Again: Has Misnamed 'God Particle' Finally Been Found?

Dec 12, 2011
Originally published on December 12, 2011 8:59 am

The news that scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland will talk Tuesday at 8 a.m. ET about "the status of their searches for the Standard Model Higgs boson" has reignited speculation that they might be about to say they've found the so-called God particle.

But then again, as our much-smarter blogging colleague Marcelo Gleiser has said before over at 13.7, rumors that the more accurately named Higgs boson has been found "occur fairly often." So let's wait and see.

As for what the Higgs boson is, we'll turn again to our friends at 13.7 — this time Adam Frank:

"The Higgs is the final piece of the Standard Model of Particle Physics which is, itself, the crowning achievement of subatomic physics. Called the 'God Particle' by some, the Higgs is responsible for giving all the other flecks of matter in this Universe the remarkable property we think of as mass. Physicists have been hunting the Higgs for decades."

If the Higgs has been found, "arguably, it would be the most important discovery since Crick and Watson worked out the structure of DNA nearly 60 years ago," the BBC's Pallab Ghosh writes today. "The significance of discovering the Higgs cannot be overstated. Once physicists know it exists they can begin studying it detail and find out whether there are many different types of Higgs. Most importantly, theoretical physicists can discard various alternatives to the Standard Model and kick on, trying to develop it further."

As for that "God particle" moniker, Marcelo previously reported that:

"As some of you may know, The God Particle is the title of a popular science book by Nobel Prize winner Leon Lederman, who was Fermilab's director for many years and thus my boss when I was a postdoctoral fellow there. According to Leon, he wanted to call the book The Goddamn Particle because nobody could find the thing. However, his editor discouraged him from the title, suggesting that The God Particle would sell many more copies. This is the story that Leon tells us."

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