Dear Friends,

Peter Higgs’ obituary was in The New York Times on Wednesday. In 1964, Higgs predicted the existence of a new particle that would explain how other particles acquire mass. That’s as far as I’m going to go in trying to explain his contribution to what’s known as the Standard Model – a model that captures all human knowledge acquired to date about elementary particles and the forces by which they shaped the universe. My paltry understanding of physics is limited to the long-running (and now syndicated) sitcom, “The Big Bang Theory.”

Dr. Higgs died at the age of 94, sixty years after he suggested the existence of the boson that now bears his name. The Higgs boson is known popularly by another name – “The God Particle.” This name was coined by the media, not because Peter Higgs was particularly religious. The story goes that the name was derived from the title of a book written by the Nobel-prize winning physicist, Leon Lederman. Lederman was frustrated by how hard it was to detect the Higgs boson, so he proposed that the title of the book he had written be “The Goddamn Particle.” The publishers – as publishers will do – changed this to “The God Particle,” and a connection with religion was drawn, one which bothers physicists to this day (and certainly bothered Peter Higgs.)

The announcement of the detection of the Higgs boson was made at the European particle physics laboratory CERN, in Geneva, Switzerland on July 4, 2012. It took until March the following year to confirm that the detected particle was indeed the Higgs boson. Peter Higgs and another scientist, François Englert, were subsequently awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics, for their Higgs field theory.

The news of Higgs’ death in Edinburgh came during the same week that people across North America observed a total eclipse of the sun. Traffic backed up for miles on interstate highways; Chambers of Commerce calculated the economic impact of visitors to places like Findlay, Tiffin, and Toledo; and businesses, museums, and churches all planned special events. Our “Totality at Trinity” event on the restored Plaza was well-attended, and it was a special gift to welcome guests from St. James Episcopal Church in Grosse Ile, Michigan. (Now there’s a faith community that raises the church potluck to a whole new level!)

As I read articles about the eclipse afterward and scrolled through Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok, the overwhelming reactions people shared were of awe and wonder – emotions usually associated with religious/spiritual experiences.

We live in an amazing universe, and we have – at least some of us have – the ability to conceive of subatomic particles and forces that help us understand the cosmos. When was the last time you experienced awe and wonder? Maybe it was this past week during the eclipse. Maybe it was when a child or grandchild was born. Maybe, just maybe, it was in church.

A week like this leads me to give thanks for the extraordinary complexity of the created order and how the glory of God is manifested in it. The opening verses of Psalm 19 come to mind:

1 The heavens declare the glory of God, *
and the firmament shows his handiwork.

2 One day tells its tale to another, *
and one night imparts knowledge to another.

3 Although they have no words or language, *
and their voices are not heard,

4 Their sound has gone out into all lands, *
and their message to the ends of the world.


Stephen Applegate

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