The phrase "God particle" was coined by Nobel-winning physicist Leon Lederman, but it's disliked by most physicists because it connotes the supernatural. Lederman said later that the phrase — mostly used by laymen — was really meant to convey that he felt it was the "goddamn particle," because it proved so hard to find.
Michael Turner, president of the American Physical Society, an organization of physicists, said the Higgs particle captured the public's imagination.
"If you're a physicist, you can't get in a taxi anywhere in the world without having the driver ask you about the Higgs particle," said Turner, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago.
Turner said the Higgs is the first in a class of particles that scientists think played a role in shaping the universe. That means it points the way to tackling mysteries such as the nature of dark energy and dark matter, he said.
The physics prize was the second of this year's Nobels to be announced. On Monday, the Nobel in medicine was given to U.S. scientists James Rothman, Randy Schekman and Thomas Sudhof for discoveries about how key substances are moved around within cells.
Jordans reported from Berlin. Associated Press writers John Heilprin in Geneva and Malcolm Ritter in New York contributed to this report.
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