Why It’s So Good: NYTimes and the Higgs Boson

By Ryan Hoefle

The discovery of the Higgs Boson particle sent wave of excitement rolling through the scientific community, but laymen had trouble grasping the significance of the recent findings at CERN. Even the most well read physicist had trouble explaining how the Higgs Boson worked in terms that your casual nano-particle enthusiast could understand, but the New York Times feature on the subject by Dennis Overbye does this with the help of a lengthy story and visual aids.


A visual approximation of what the subatomic Higgs Boson would look like to the human eye. CERN scientists determine the properties of the particle by analyzing massive amounts of data extrapolated from near-light speed proton collisions.


The story goes into full detail of the work done at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva where two teams of scientists worked simultaneously to uncover the secrets behind the elusive particle. What makes this article so good is the fact that it gives proper context to the discovery of the Higgs Boson and humanizes the scientists that made it all happen. 

Overbye highlights the people in charge of the operation and tells the events behind the announcement of the Higgs Boson’s existence through the eyes of those responsible for both discovering and sharing the properties of the “God Particle” with the rest of the world. For the majority of people the announcement of the Higgs Boson was just a story you read and pretended to understand. But for those in charge at CERN this meant putting your reputation in the scientific community on the line. Overbye does a good job of explaining the saga behind the massive scientific undertaking via those who made the discovery possible in the first place.

The idea of the Higgs Boson is a tough one to wrap your head around even for the nerdiest of nerds, but the article includes an interactive slideshow that uses the power of metaphor to explain the Higgs Boson in terms that most people could understand. Overbye does in his four part article what those will surely attempt to do in books and it serves as a perfect example of good scientific journalism. His article is one part feature story, one part physics lecture and all parts good.

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