Will Higgs boson give rise to a new religion, new god?



I’m still not sure about how the Higgs boson is anywhere close to god, but if hundreds of millions of people, across the world believe that there is an inexplicable divinity around this particle, I suspect a new religion is on the way. The poor particle and its team of physicist-creators may explain the phenomenon in hundreds of ways, but the forgotten fact remains that every frontier of science opens up new doors to the unknown.

“Whatever form the Higgs particle takes, our knowledge of the fundamental structure of matter is about to take a major step forward,” the Geneva-based CERN or European Organisation for Nuclear Research press release on Wednesday stated. That’s all science, rational…the stuff that can be proved by repetition, through processes that a handful of physicists understand.

By calling this Anglo-Indian discovery — it is named after two physicists, the British Peter Higgs and India’s Satyendra Nath Bose — god or something on those lines, we are probably living the media hype. To me, this looks nothing more than smart packaging of science. “Some physicists would prefer to call the Higgs boson the goddamn particle,” Deepak Chopra tweeted.

How did god get trapped in physics? “A Nobel laureate physicist from Fermilab called Leon Lederman wrote a book in the early 1990s about the search for the Higgs boson,” The Telegraph wrote. “His publishers coined the name as a marketable title for the book, but it’s disliked by many scientists.”

I can’t believe this. If there is something all consumer products can learn from, it is this outstanding marketing of the Higgs Boson — none of us know what it’s all about but we’re already embracing it as the ‘god particle’. Most new religions form around charismatic personalities or ideas. Of the former, there is a cult around every corner.

But in the evolution of society, idea-based religions have started mushrooming as well. Early this year, the Swedish government recognised a new religion that borders between a debatable point of view and plain ridiculous. “The Church of Kopimism claims that ‘kopyacting’ — sharing information through copying — is akin to a religious service,” the BBC reported. “The ‘spiritual leader’ of the church said recognition was a ‘large step’.” Essentially, the religion encourages file sharing. “For the Church of Kopimism, information is holy and copying is a sacrament,” Gustav Nipe, chairman of the organisation, said.

If religion is getting political (file sharing and free information is a hugely debatable idea around which big money and politicians are rallying around), why should Higgs boson be left out, particularly, when science itself has left the door open? Give it 12 months and you’ll see how a small group of people will align around this idea, convert it into a religion and derive political mileage.

While we track this phenomenon, here are a few intelligent pieces around the Higgs boson that I enjoyed reading:

The news: Physicists declare victory in Higgs hunt: Researchers must now pin down the precise identity of their new particle, via Nature.

The news: “God Particle” Found? “Historic Milestone” From Higgs boson Hunters. Newfound particle may be at the core of existence, via National Geographic.

Look and feel: What does the ‘God Particle’ look like? via Designweek.

Explainer: The Higgs particle — what it is and what it does, via Reuters.

For science junkies: Discussion Meeting Issue ‘Physics at the high-energy frontier: the Large Hadron Collider project’ organized and edited by George Kalmus, Robert Brown, David Evans, Valerie Gibson and Richard Nickerson, via The Royal Society.

Finally, some fun stuff: How to explain Higgs boson discovery. Everyone’s talking about the ‘God particle’ — but what if someone asks you to explain it. Well, it depends if it’s an A-level physics student or a religious fundamentalist. Just use our guide, via Guardian.

Before I sign off, here’s an endearing tweet from @TheTweetOfGod, a handle I have begun to follow: If you really did find the God particle, I hope you’ll do the right thing and return it.

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