Higgs boson discovery: the reaction around the world

  • @MsEllenEJones

Today scientists at the Cern Large Hadron Collider hailed the discovery of the elusive Higgs boson particle, that gives matter mass and holds the universe together. Big news then, but exactly how big?

The Wall Street Journal calls it “one of the biggest coups for modern-day physics”  but  Der Spiegel is comparatively unimpressed, noting that the discovery "only sheds light on a model which describes matter, which makes up about 4 per cent of the universe...The rest of the universe, made up of dark energy and dark matter, still remains shrouded in secrecy," Fox News, meanwhile, is thinking in centuries; they compare the discovery to Issac Newton’s publication of his theories on gravity in 1687. 

Before anyone gets carried away, it’s worth remebering that although the particle behaves like the theorised Higgs boson, looks like it and presumably smells like it too, according to the strict scientific definition of “certainty”, it’s still too soon to call for sure.

In fact, says The New York Times, it is the possibility that the particle differs from what scientists have theorised that is most exciting. It could “point the way to new deeper ideas beyond the Standard Model, about the nature of reality.”

What might these 'deeper ideas' consist of? Multiple universes or a new source of energy for our resource-depleted planet says Alan Boyle, a physics blogger for US news channel, MSNBC: “If the discovery of the Higgs leads to fresh insights into the fabric of the universe, it’s conceivable that we could take advantage of the as-yet-unknown weave of that fabric for communication or transportation.”

Dream on sci-fi nerds, says Adam Mann at Wired magazine: “The Higgs boson is starting to look just a little too ordinary...scientists have been secretly hoping all along that, when they finally found the Higgs, it would be an interesting particle with unexpected behaviors”

But even if the physics news is more whimper than Big Bang, the font choice for Cern's announcement already has design snobs exploding with rage like helium gas in a Large Hadron Collider. @alistairh says “Using Comic Sans (except in comic strips) is like doing physics in Imperial units.”

Forget the font though, first we’ll need to agree on a name. Atheists, pedants and prolific users of swearwords are all miffed by the prevalence of “God particle”, which, according to The Economist, is a sniffy publisher's abbreviation of physicist Leon Lederman’s nickname “goddamn particle”.

The Times of India also stakes a claim for the “b” in “bosen” to be capitalised, reminding readers it was named after Satyendra Nath Bose, a Calcutta-born scientist whose achievements are often overshadowed by the British-born Professor Peter Higgs.