Scientists in Catfight to Rename Higgs

Name makes Peter Higgs a 'rock star,' fellow theorist complains

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 23, 2013 2:10 AM CDT | Updated Apr 23, 2013 6:21 AM CDT

(Newser) – Amid rumors that this year's Nobel Prize for Physics will go to the Higgs boson theory, some scientists say the particle's name should be changed so that all the glory doesn't go to British physicist Peter Higgs. At a press conference last year to announce the particle's discovery, Higgs "was treated as something of a rock star and the rest of us were barely recognized by most of the audience," American scientist Carl Hagen tells the BBC. Hagen is considered to have helped develop the theory, along with Higgs and four others.

Most scientists, however, agree that calling it the Englert-Higgs-Guralnik-Kibble-Brout-Hagen particle would be too unwieldy—and the acronyms aren't much better. Hagen favors the name Standard Model Scalar Meson. In a BBC interview last week, Higgs himself argued that it should really be called the Goldstone particle after Cambridge physicist Jeffrey Goldstone. Higgs explained that the "God particle" nickname for the Higgs started out as a joke, after an editor rejected an author's plan "to call it 'that goddamn particle' because it was clear it was going to be a tough job finding it experimentally."

University of Edinburgh emeritus professor Peter Higgs, speaks during a press conference at the European Organization for Nuclear Research.
University of Edinburgh emeritus professor Peter Higgs, speaks during a press conference at the European Organization for Nuclear Research.   (AP Photo/Keystone, Fabrice Coffrini, File)
This  image provided by CERN, shows a collision from the Higgs search in which four high energy electrons are observed.
This image provided by CERN, shows a collision from the Higgs search in which four high energy electrons are observed.   (AP Photo/CERN)
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