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Higgs Boson Should Be Renamed To Acknowledge Others, Physicist Says

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Apr 23, 2013 10:40 AM EDT
British physicist Peter Higgs looks on a news conference update in the search for the Higgs boson at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Meyrin near Geneva July 4, 2012.
British physicist Peter Higgs looks on a news conference update in the search for the Higgs boson at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Meyrin near Geneva July 4, 2012. (Photo : Reuters)

"What's in a name?" Shakespeare's Juliet famously asked. "That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

Particle physicists don't seem to take well to Juliet's words, and some are campaigning to change the name of the Higgs boson, the theoretical keystone of modern physics that was essentially confirmed to exist last month.

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Speculation that this year's Nobel Prize in Physics will be awarded to Higgs theory, has rekindled debate on the name of the particle, with one of the men who helped discover the Higgs boson calling for its renaming.

 "I have always thought that the name was not a proper one," said professor Carl Hagen, in an interview with BBC News.

"To single out one individual marginalizes the contribution of others involved in the work. Although I did not start this campaign to change the name, I welcome it."

According to the BBC, key contributions to Higgs theory have been made by Francois Englert, Peter Higgs, Gerald Guralnik, Tom Kibble, Robert Brout and Carl Hagen, five of whom spoke at a press conference last summer to announce the discovery of what was thought to be the Higgs boson.

Only professor Higgs received a huge round of applause from the audience.

"Peter Higgs was treated as something of a rock star and the rest of us were barely recognized by most of the audience. It was clear that Higgs was the dominant name because of the fact his name has become associated with the boson," Hagen told BBC.

The Higgs boson also has another sobriquet that draws ire from the scientific community. Journalists calling the Higgs boson the "God particle" are accused of sensationalizing the fact.

Hagen suggests that the particle instead be called the Standard Model Scalar Meson, or SM Squared.

Whether the name will actually change is unknown, but in all likelihood, even if what we call the Higgs boson officially changes to something else, it will likely always be colloquially referred to as the Higgs boson.

"Names are given to predicted particles, and eventually one name sticks. This shouldn't been seen as a slight on the others who also contributed to developing this theory,' said professor Jordan Nash, who is among those who helped detect and characterize the particle at the LHC last year.

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