A week or so ago, scientists discovered the Higgs Boson. I don't have a picture of it - don't even know what it looks like. I think it's something like this: . only much, much smaller.
No, I don't have the faintest idea what it is. Brian Cox has tried to describe it, but even his smile and reassuring excitement is not enough. I know only that it's important in some way, and future generations will celebrate its discovery. (Professor Jim Al-Khalili does his best to explain it here.)
But I can't get past the name. Higgs Boson sounds, to me, like a character from Dickens. He belongs between leather covers with gold writing on the front. He is a faded sailor, with drinker's nose and a slight stagger when he walks on land. He is a kindly but ineffectual man, who offers sanctuary for a young hero without asking his harridan of a wife - Brunhilde Boson, who has a thick ankles and throws stones at cats.
And now someone tells me it is some sort of particle! What's more it is a tiny particle - and so surely it should have a tiny name. Atoms - they are small, and atom is a small word. So we need an even smaller word than atom - a word like 'miu' or even a 'tom' (since it's part of an atom).
Do names matter? Of course they do - can you see Oliver Twist renames Kevin Ogilvy? Jane Eyre as Esmerelda Pinkington-Smythe? Mr Darcy as Jason Brown?
So, do you think the scientists should rename the Higgs Boson - not to make it comprehensible, but simply to illustrate that it is a very small thing? And, if so, what should it be called?
And what is the name of the waif that ex-Captain Boson takes in, in spite of his Dickensian wife?