What's in a name? A lot - at least as far as the Higgs boson is concerned. Some leading scientists want the elusive God particle, called Higgs boson after its discoverer Peter Higgs, to be renamed in order to also credit the other researchers involved in its discovery.
Scientists argue that Higgs, the genial but reclusive Edinburgh University physicist who predicted the existence of the 'God particle' in a 1964 paper, was just one of six researchers involved. The others should also be credited, they say.
A variety of names have been suggested as replacements. One idea proposed is to call it the Brout-Englert-Higgs, or BEH, particle, to reflect the roles of Belgian physicists Robert Brout and Francois Englert, whose paper on the topic came out just before that of Higgs, The Sunday Times reported.
Another is to rename it the BEHGHK (pronounced Berk) particle, with the extra letters representing Gerald Guralnik, Carl Hagen and Tom Kibble, based at Imperial College London, whose joint paper followed Higgs's by a few weeks.
"It should not be called the Higgs. The rest of us are fighting not just for our ego but for our place in the annals of physics," Hagen said.
The debate has raised tensions within the physics community. Last month, at a conference organised by The European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern), speakers were told not to use that name but instead refer to the BEH boson. The programme for the meeting at Moriond, in France, also referred to it as the SM Scalar boson.
"Higgs is the wrong name for this particle because the paper where the mechanism and structure was first set out was ours," said Englert, who chaired the session at which the particle was discussed.
"Maybe the name should not matter but it is not pleasant if you have done important work to be ignored. What's more, Brout was my friend and should not be forgotten," Englert said.
Others scientists are not so concerned. "The name Higgs boson has been in common use for 40 years and it is silly to try to change it. There is no chance that any of the longer names on offer will ever be in everyday use. They are just too clumsy," Kibble, now emeritus professor of theoretical physics at Imperial College, said. Higgs, 83, could not be contacted, the report said.