Jerry Moore: Higgs boson article makes for great story

Jerry Moore

Writing about the search for the Higgs boson was a near-perfect experience for me.

Researchers at both Argonne National Laboratory near Darien, Ill., and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Batavia, Ill., generously offered their time in explaining one of the most important discoveries in particle physics.

Scientists announced earlier this year that they believe they’ve finally identified a subatomic element that could help explain the building blocks of the universe.

I loved working on this feature package. The hunt for the Higgs boson has been on for nearly 50 years, and I marvel at how these individuals are expanding human knowledge.

But I said researching this story was a “near-perfect” experience. My plan was to interview a key player, but he eluded my grasp.

Leon Lederman was Fermilab’s second director, serving from 1979 to 1989. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1988, which he shared with Melvin Schwartz and Jack Steinberger.

His research led to the discovery of two particles: the muon neutrino and bottom quark. He oversaw the development of the Tevatron at Fermilab, the most powerful particle accelerator in the world until the construction of the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.

Lederman founded the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy and the Teachers Academy for Mathematics and Science. His 1993 book, “The God Particle,” detailing the history of particle physics, displays his trademark sense of humor and command of scientific knowledge.

In his book, Lederman distinguishes between the theorists and experimenters in physics. Seeing how these machines are designed to conduct such phenomenal work, I see his point that experimenters often don’t get the credit they deserve.

If I was going to write about the Higgs boson, Lederman was a must-get interview. But when I began researching my story, he had already retired and moved out of state. At 90, he’s earned some peace and quiet.

All is not lost, though, as I’ve learned quite a bit about Lederman along the way. He’s had a profound impact on particle physics, and our world is a better place as a result.

Jerry Moore is the opinions editor for Suburban Life Publications. Contact him at (630) 368-8930 or