There is nothing like a good catchphrase to excite people. This week half the world was talking about something they don't understand in the slightest.
That may not be anything that unusual, but this week it was the Standard Model of particle physics, which is a bit different than Justin Bieber’s latest haircut or similar fare from the Kardashians.
Traditional media and social media could talk about little else other than the so-called “God particle.”
Unfortunately, the strong understanding of particle physics you need to really talk or write about particle physics isn’ in most journalists’ or bloggers’ bag of tricks. Fortunately, talking about what the God particle isn’t doesn't requires the same training. Playing up the “God” part sells more books, magazines, newspapers and makes for better TV spots. Or so they say.
Most of the discussion centred on what the deeper meaning of the discovery was, as though it had some burning bush revelation from on high to console our weak and huddled masses.
No such message has been found yet, nor will it likely be found. It doesn’t mean anything to the average person. So ignore the hare-brains on the Internet calling it a particle of God, or using it to take a shot a science and scientists.
The existence of the Higgs boson — the actual, but not as colourful name of the newly nearly discovered particle — was predicted in 1964, but popularized in 1993 by physicist Leon Lederman in a book, much to the chagrin of many scientists worldwide.
The value in the discovery is to support theoretical notions of how bits of energy become matter. It is the god to the other particles, drawing them together and making them into something, but that is where it ends.
This week's discovery is the culmination of decades of work and assumptions proved right, or almost certainly right.
Science excels in the dark. One might say it doesn’t function any other way. People with problems seeking explanations and discarding old ones as new ones offer more detail and exactness.
Still you can imagine how gratifying it was to find out that something you have built an entire career on is actually real.
That is how science works: you may build a fabulous theory on an imagined constant or an undiscovered particle.
It is faith in action.