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Leading article: A landmark in science by any name


It's been called the "God particle". But the Higgs boson has nothing to do with a deity. The new subatomic particle discovered at Cern is certainly consistent with the elusive Higgs boson, and further work should confirm whether it is indeed the entity that fits into the Standard Model of physics.

We can thank the Nobel prize-winning physicist Leon Lederman, and his 1993 popular science book, for the catchy nickname. He wanted to put the Higgs particle at the heart of modern theoretical physics as something that could explain why matter has mass and why, therefore, it comes together to form atoms, molecules, planets and people. He also pointed out that his publishers rejected his preferred title of "Goddamn particle" (in recognition of its elusiveness) in favour of "God particle". Peter Higgs has always despised the term, but it stuck. Perhaps now is the time to revive his preferred name – and so celebrate its true role in advancing understanding of the universe.