How It Works

The ‘God particle’

In the fervour around the search for the Higgs, this ‘God particle’ nickname got the public’s attention, but journalists soon realised it’s best not used near physicists. The name comes from the title of a 1993 book on particle physics co-authored by the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon Lederman.

Lederman says the working title was The Goddamn Particle, a reference to the frustrating effort to find the missing piece. His publisher proposed the more polite alternative, and Lederman saw the name as a metaphor: the particle helps us simplify our understanding of the universe.

Like many physicists, Peter Higgs is embarrassed by the term. In an interview with The Guardian newspaper, he explained that, while he’s not a believer himself, he sees the name as a potentially offensive misuse of the concept of ‘God’. The particle is not an ultimate creator and its existence has no inherent religious implications.