Leon Lederman (with Dick Teresi), The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question?, 1993:
What, or who, is standing in our way, obstructing our search for the perfect T-shirt? […] Before we can complete the task begun by the ancient Greeks, we must consider the possibility that our quarry is laying false clues to confuse us. Sometimes, like a spy in a John le Carre novel, the experimenter must set a trap. He must force the culprit to expose himself.
Particle physicists are currently setting just such a trap. We're building a tunnel fifty-four miles in circumference that will contain the twin beam tubes of the Superconducting Super Collider, in which we hope to trap our villain.
And what a villain! The biggest of all time! There is, we believe, a wraithlike presence throughout the universe that is keeping us from understanding the true nature of matter. It's as if something, or someone, wants to prevent us from attaining the ultimate knowledge.
The invisible barrier that keeps us from knowing the truth is called the Higgs field. Its icy tentacles reach into every corner of the universe, and its scientific and philosophical implication raise large goose bumps on the skin of a physicist. The Higgs field works its black magic through — what else? — a particle. This particle goes by the name of the Higgs Boson. […] This boson is so central to the state of physics today, so crucial to our final understanding of the structure of matter, yet so elusive, that I have given it a nickname: the God Particle. Why God Particle? Two reasons. One, the publisher wouldn't let us call it the Goddamn Particle, though that might be a more appropriate title, given its villainous nature and the expense it is causing. And two, there is a connection, of sorts, to another book, a much older one…
Malcolm W. Browne, "Labs Close In on the 'God Particle'", NYT 8/10/1999:
Because of its presumably vital importance to universal existence, the Higgs boson was dubbed "The God Particle" in the title of a book by Dr. Leon Lederman, a Nobel laureate in physics. The godlike importance ascribed to the Higgs is based on the belief that its interactions endow all the constituents of matter with mass; it is the universal giver of heft.
Dennis Overbye, "Physicists Inch Closer to Proof of Elusive Particle", NYT 7/2/2012:
The boson is named for Peter Higgs of the University of Edinburgh, one of six physicists who envisioned a kind of cosmic molasses, now known as the Higgs field, that would impart mass to formerly massless particles trying to move through it like a celebrity trying to get to the bar.
The Superconducting Super Collider was cancelled in 1993 due to budget issues, though a large hole in the ground near Waxahachie TX remains as a monument to the ambitions of the times. Lederman and Teresi imagine a different outcome:
And the whole universe was of many languages, and of many speeches.
And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Waxahachie, and they dwelt there. And they said to one another, Go to, let us build a Giant Collider, whose collisions may reach back to the beginning of time. And they had superconducting magnets for bending, and proton had they for smashing.
And the Lord came down to see the accelerator, which the children of men builded. And the Lord said, Behold the people are unconfounding my confounding. And the Lord sighed and said, Go to, let us go down, and there give the the God Particle so that they may see how beautiful is the universe I have made.
That, of course, is an imitation of this.
And I wonder whether somewhere in the background was an idea like this one:
Update — from "Higgs boson is like … a Justin Bieber fan?", CNN 7/5/2012:
Martin Archer, a physicist at Imperial College in London, explains it differently: He compares the phenomenon to Justin Bieber in a crowd of teenage girls. If he tries to move through them, they slow him down, and his speed decreases the more they're attracted to him. "We think we have found these teenage girls," he told CNN Wednesday.
Similarly, if the universe is like a party, people who are relatively unknown will pass through the room quickly, while more popular people are slowed down by their friends, who correspond to Higgs bosons.