While looking for something else I’ll blog about in a short while, I stumbled upon one of the most annoying of the articles on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN (or any other particle physics experiment) that I’ve read in a long time. This is because of this utterly ridiculous business of calling the Higgs particle the “God particle”. Who started this? It really is so misleading and annoying. The title of the Guardian article is “In the beginning: scientists get ready to hunt for God particle”, and it is by Ian Sample. Some random bits:
It should certainly discover what some call the “God particle”, finally answering the embarrassingly simple but elusive question of why things have mass.
Finding the Higgs boson will confirm scientists’ most complete theory of the universe and the matter from which it is created. “It’s probably the closest to God that we’ll get,” said Jos Engelen, Cern’s chief scientist.
Some?! Who are these people who call it the “God particle”?! If you know anybody in the field who calls it the “God particle” (or even out of the field, for that matter) please write in and say. It could simply be that I don’t know these people since I am an irrelevant theorist.
And if that wasn’t enough, before I finished reading, I got to savour paragraphs like the one below, where I can’t even begin to imagine how the reporter could have got things so garbled. Note that typically no actual scientist involved in the piece is allowed to check stuff like this because of the internal editorial policies of these sorts of publications – and of course the general “who cares anyway?” attitude to science coverage:
Other experiments will veer sharply into what has previously been the realm of science fiction. Some scientists believe the universe has more dimensions than the ones we know about. In one extra dimension gravity is believed to be exceptionally strong. If the collider momentarily wedges extra dimensions open, it could release a powerful tug of gravity that compresses matter so much it creates a miniature black hole.
(*Imagine me running around in tight circles with my hands on the side of my head… screaming. For a full minute.)