Higgs in the media

04 July 2012 - Physics

NOS Higgs announcement.gifCERN today announced they have successfully detected the Higgs boson. Congratulations! Particle physics is a tremendously difficult to understand science and it is interesting to see how the news is presented in the media. Dutch television news is dominated by tax-payer financed NOS News (50 million euro budget) and commercial RTL Nieuws (25 million budget).
A RTL newsman correctly stated that the Higgs particle is so important because it gives everything its mass and not only to this brick (man is holding a brick in his hands). His colleague incorrectly stated that the Higgs particle is coming from outer space and therefore also known as the "God particle" .
The NOS news people were also preoccupied with a brick. Their item (with animation) starts with the assertion that everything consists of elementary particles. The animation against a backdrop of planet Earth shows a dog, a tree, then the Dutch prime-minister (?), then a (subliminally connected) banana and then a brick! What happens next is confusing. The animation shows a brick, a magnifier and an atom, right? The voice-over however states that that if you could really zoom in you would see it is composed of really tiny particles, the quarks and electrons. This does not make sense. As a minor offence the voice-over repeatedly feels the need to translate mass as weight. Otherwise the viewers will not understand?
The animation should have stressed that the research was aimed beyond molecules and atoms at the properties of subatomic particles like protons and electrons. They could have drawn inspiration from the classic 1977 Powers of Ten.