Geneva: Even as the world media goes bombastic over the discovery of ‘God Particle’, scientists involved in the experiments are not amused by the godly reference to their hunt for the elusive Higgs boson.
The Higgs boson is being hunted so determinedly because it would be the manifestation of an invisible field - the Higgs field - thought to permeate the entire universe.
The field was posited in the 1960s by British scientist Peter Higgs as the way that matter obtained mass after the universe was created in the Big Bang.
As such, according to the theory, it was the agent that made the stars, planets - and life - possible by giving mass to most elementary particles, the building blocks of the universe; hence the nickname "God Particle."
But the scientist fraternity differs on naming Higgs boson as ‘God Particle’.
Senior scientists associated with the research have termed ‘God Particle’ as media creation.
"The Higgs is not endowed with any religious meaning. It is ridiculous to call it that," one of them said.
"It's not doing justice to the Higgs and what we think its role in the universe is. It has nothing to do with God," said another.
"Hearing it called the 'God particle' makes me angry. It confuses people about what we are trying to do here at CERN," rants another.
According to people who have investigated the subject, the term originated with a 1993 history of particle physics by US Nobel prize winner Leon M Lederman.
The book was titled: "The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question?"
Physicists say Lederman, who over the years has been the target of much opprobrium from his scientific colleagues, tells friends he wanted to call the book "The Goddamned Particle" to reflect frustration at the failure to find it.
But, according to that account, his publisher rejected the epithet - possibly because of its potential to upset a strongly religious US public - and convinced Lederman to accept the alternative he proposed.
"Lederman has a lot to answer for," said Higgs himself, now 82, on a visit to Geneva some six years ago.
But James Gillies, spokesman for CERN and himself a physicist, is slightly more equivocal.
"Of course it has nothing to do with God whatsoever," he says. "But I can understand why people go that way because the Higgs is so important to our understanding of nature."
With agency inputs
First Published: Wednesday, July 04, 2012, 10:18