Higgs boson
Posted: 05 July 2012 07:38 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Strictly speaking, shouldn’t it be Higgs’ boson? Is it to do with the final s? If his name was Higg it would probably be Higg’s boson. Maybe scientists aren’t too bothered with apostrophes (Dr T excepted) and it just caught on.

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Posted: 05 July 2012 10:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Because in the term the Higgs boson Higgs isn’t being used as a possessive?

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Posted: 05 July 2012 11:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Why should it be possessive? Higgs is a straight up adjective, no different from saying “the red boson.”

pipped by Aldi.

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Posted: 05 July 2012 01:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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If you’re Indian, you’re likely to feel it should be Higgs Boson, with a capital B … though I don’t notice the Italians pushing for Fermion with a capital F.

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Posted: 05 July 2012 08:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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There was this discussion a while back. Using the apostrophe s in a medical context still sounds normal to my ears, but I understand the shift away from it. “Newton’s Law of Cooling,” which OP references in the earlier discussion, may make sense because of Newton’s overwhelming authority in physics, which lasted until just about the year 1900. ISTR in German it is less common or more informal to use the possessive with a proper noun. They seem to favor an adjectival ending: Plancksches Wirkungsquantum. The somewhat ungainly English equivalent would be the Planckian Constant or maybe the Planckesque Constant. ;-)

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Posted: 05 July 2012 08:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Another issue--if it is an objective genitive as Dave calls it, it wouldn’t take an article. You wouldn’t say, “We discovered the Higgs’s boson.”

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Posted: 05 July 2012 09:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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There are lots of these in physics. Although laws or equations may have a possessive in the name ("Newton’s first law of motion”, “Ohm’s law"), other eponymous terms typically don’t use the possessive:
Schwarzchild radius
Hawking radiation
Hilbert space
Fitzgerald contraction
Pauli exclusion principle
Stirling cycle
Compton scattering
Feynman diagram
Coulomb force
Mach number
Auger electron

“Higgs’ boson” would be an aberrant formation.

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Posted: 05 July 2012 11:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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The same applies to some medical conditions and diseases:
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
Irlen syndrome
Lyme disease
Neither Dr Creutzveldt, Dr Jakob, nor Ms Helen Irlen, suffered from these. Lyme disease was first diagnosed in the town of Old Lyme, Connecticut.  However, there are diseases where the apostrophe is properly used, eg Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease.

[ Edited: 05 July 2012 11:57 PM by ElizaD ]
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Posted: 06 July 2012 03:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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And strictly speaking, if were to be used with an apostrophe, it would be Higgs’s boson, not Higgs’ boson. Higgs is not a plural, named for Peter Higgs not for multiple people with that name, and therefore it takes ‘s, not the apostrophe alone.

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Posted: 06 July 2012 12:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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How to form the possessive of a proper name ending in s is a style-manual issue, not a matter of right or wrong usage.  Chicago would go for “Higgs’s” (edit: although the 15th edition allowed either addition or omission of the final s) but AP would use “Higgs’” (in both cases, for something where the possessive was appropriate, like Higgs’(s) bicycle, not the boson).

[ Edited: 06 July 2012 02:17 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 07 July 2012 03:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Attempting to get to grips with the Higgs boson (at least through a glass darkly) I’ve been reading up on the history. This gave rise to a question on the nomenclature.

From Wikipedia:

The existence of the Higgs boson was predicted in 1964 to explain the Higgs mechanism (sometimes termed in the literature the Brout-Englert-Higgs, BEH or Brout-Englert-Higgs-Hagen-Guralnik-Kibble mechanism after its original proposers - the mechanism by which elementary particles are given mass. ....................... The Higgs boson is named after Peter Higgs, who in 1964 wrote one of three ground-breaking papers alongside the work of Robert Brout and François Englert and Tom Kibble, C. R. Hagen and Gerald Guralnik covering what is now known as the Higgs mechanism and described the related Higgs field and boson.

Who decides on the name? Do a committee of scientists meet formally and choose the name of that ‘original proposer’ who made the greatest contribution? Or is the process more informal, decided eventually by general usage among all scientists? I note this from the above, “sometimes termed in the literature the Brout-Englert-Higgs, BEH or Brout-Englert-Higgs-Hagen-Guralnik-Kibble mechanism after its original proposers”. Not the snappiest of terms, albeit presumably the fairest!

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Posted: 07 July 2012 06:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Michael Quinion of WorldWideWords has more:

Few of us have failed to be made aware this week of the subatomic particle called the Higgs boson or that it was named after Peter Higgs, a physicist at Edinburgh University who was among a group who argued in a series of papers in 1964 that it ought to exist. Fewer will know that the second part of the name also commemorates a scientist, the Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose, who made a key discovery about quantum statistics in 1924 that proved that a class of subatomic particles with particular properties must exist. These were given his name, modified by the conventional -on ending for such particles. The other class of particles, fermions, were named after the Italian-born American physicist, Enrico Fermi.

But nothing on who approves the names of elements etc.

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Posted: 07 July 2012 07:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Scientific terms are named by a mix of methods. The names of the elements are officially sanctioned by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC); names of planets and certain other astronomical bodies are bestowed by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Others things are named under conventions that allow the discoverers to give them names, as in Linnaean taxonomy. And others just arise out of common use, like big bang, and presumably Higgs boson.

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Posted: 07 July 2012 09:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Judging by the testimony of the handful of research scientists whom I know personally (and by published history), rivalries and jealousies over recognition, between individuals and groups, can be just as ferociously partisan (and just as nasty, petty and demeaning) in science as everywhere else. Read what Wikipedia has to tell, about disputes regarding the award of Nobel Prizes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobel_Prize_controversies). All sorts of factors (not all having anything to do with science) govern what Dave calls “common use”.

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Posted: 12 July 2012 08:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I see now that ‘the’ is the key element as stated by posters cf. the Coriolis effect not Coriolis’ effect; the God Particle not God’s Particle (presumably the Gods Particle among Hindu scientists). However, the Higgs boson is a theoretical construct though it looks like they will soon be countable so we can expect either “22 Higgs’ bosons have been detected so far” or “The Higgs boson has been detected 22 times so far”. Which will prevail? I can’t wait.

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Posted: 12 July 2012 10:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I would lay money that the usual form will be “22 Higgs bosons” (no apostrophe) just as one would write “he drew 22 Feynman diagrams” or “the process releases two Auger electrons”.

[ Edited: 12 July 2012 10:38 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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