Silly Nicknames in Science: The Goddamned Particle and The Eight-fold Way
#1
There has been a lot of noise in the media about the Higgs boson.

Full Disclosure: I don't understand this kind of physics nor not understanding this kind of physics is particularly distressing to me, as long as there are sufficient low level jobs to keep my family in shoes :-)

It seems that the celebrated physicist Leon Lederman wanted to give this particle the nickname "the Goddamned particle" in a book he was writing, because of its elusive nature. His publisher didn't like this and changed it to "the God particle". And we are now stuck with this name. And of course, the non-scientific types use this nonsense to bolster their beliefs.

Gell-Mann caused a similar problem by calling his group of particles the eight-fold way and was surprised that religious-nutters are using the name to make silly argumenst.

Both Lederman and Gell-Mann should have known better.

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#2
Other nicknames that vie for the silliness top spot are the 'god gene' and the 'god helmet'.
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#3
Anthropologists have been smarter. They named the girls Lucy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_(Australopithecus) and Ardi http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ardi . Pretty secular. "Eve" would have been so convenient.

[Edited for context.]
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#4
(10-Aug-2011, 08:27 PM)karatalaamalaka Wrote: Anthropologists have been smarter. They named the girls Lucy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_(Australopithecus) and Ardi http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ardi . Pretty secular.

They seem to have been less careful while christening Ramapithecus/Sivapithecus. It is hard to say now whether it was only a well-intentioned attempt to keep a local flavour or an instance of flippant cultural ineptitude. In any case, the religious offence-taking industry isn't often willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and I remember how these names were struck off ('out of court' of course, scarily reminiscent of the way many schools in the Middle East and American South simply skip the Evolution chapters in the biology textbook) the biology curriculum in Class XII in the Maharashtra Board. It was almost as if these terms were 'beeped out' of the classroom, wholly callous of that fact that it deprives students of a significant piece of palaeo-anthropological history.
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#5
(10-Aug-2011, 09:39 PM)arvindiyer Wrote: ...

The context is that Lucy and Ardi were the first known hominids at the time of each of the two discoveries, but anthropologists resisted the temptation to name them "Eve" or something like that!

They weren't struck out of my state's syllabus. Luckily, my high school teacher was a lot of fun, and I remember the class had a nice laugh about it. I think we even used it as a nickname for some guy with Rama in his name in our class.

Btw, I just recalled that there is also a Shiva crater in the Indian ocean.

I think it is sometimes ambiguous whether the intention is to reference mythology or theology.
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#6
(10-Aug-2011, 09:48 PM)karatalaamalaka Wrote: The context is that Lucy and Ardi were the first known hominids at the time of each of the two discoveries, but anthropologists resisted the temptation to name them "Eve" or something like that!

Again they were a little less careful with the Seven Daughters of Eve.

(10-Aug-2011, 09:48 PM)karatalaamalaka Wrote: I think it is sometimes ambiguous whether the intention is to reference mythology or theology.

Yes. It is less dicey to trot out Greek/Roman deities since they are no longer 'worshipped' per se.
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#7
The eightfold path is actually a very intuitive way to visualize the the various hadron generations and their quark ancestry. Guellmann could not have known every term that religious apologists use and think about what name he could give. The god particle issue is an absolute stupidity, it doesnt even deserve that name.
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#8
Well there is a positive side to not finding the Higgs at the current energy levels. New physics and some distance to cover for the standard model. There has been a lot of data collection at the CERN and real worry about no discernible signal of the Higgs signature. I heard a talk at my university last week about this and even the speaker was hopeful for new Physics. He ended his talk saying the only true winner in this experiment is physics, one way or the other.

So much for the God particle that we might actually have to do away with if its not within the standard model energy predictions.


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#9
The "Goddamned Particle" is shooting through cyberspace again! The impossibly stupid trumpeting of the "god particle" by Times of India, Hindustan Times etc. seems to have lit up hundreds of religious countenances with smug smiles.Today, a religious friend walked up to me and with a triumphant sweep of his hand, showed me a couple of articles about the goddamned particle. A colleague went so far as to declare happily how "om/aum resonates through all creation"! Another aired the hackneyed "kan-kan mein hain bhagwan"( "god is present in every particle") argument. What surprised me greatly was that no one even bothered to discuss the scientific aspects; the discovery was viewed simply as an affirmation of their existing belief-systems.

I really wish they would stop calling it the god particle!!!
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#10
I too woke up this morning and did a spit take with my coffee when I saw the headline in TOI. Seriously! These guys just keep doing this to keep ordinary folk interested or mildly curious. If the Title were to read " Higgs Boson Confirmed at 5-sigma Standard Deviations at 125 GeV" or even "Higgs Boson confirmed!", everyone will think someone at the printing press swapped page 24 for the front page.
"It's alright, I rarely meet anyone who's able to read it properly. Although personally, I never thought that it to be an odd of a name. Once I give people the pronunciation, they tend to remember my name by easily associating me with it. A unique face, a unique moniker."
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