Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Haley Reading Group: Dennis Overbye’s “A Pioneer as Elusive as His Particle”


[The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2015)]

By Rae'Jean Spears

Dennis Overbye’s article “A Pioneer as Elusive as His Particle” focuses on Dr. Peter Higgs, a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. Dr. Higgs is known for his contribution in predicting the existence of a particle, now known as the Higgs boson, that explained how particles get mass. Interestingly enough, while Dr. Higgs was highly regarded for his discovery, Overbye illustrates how Higgs avoids attention.

Overbye’s discussion of how such an important figure in science chooses to be relatively secluded is quite fascinating. Overbye notes “his public appearances are as rare and fleeting as the tracks of an exotic particle in the underground detectors of CERN” (208). This point greatly illustrates the extent to which Dr. Higgs is rarely seen in the public eye.

After reading Overbye’s article, what was one point about Dr. Higgs's seclusion that caught your attention? Why was that interesting in comparison to his noteworthy contribution to science? Please provide a page number citation.

51 comments:

Ivyanne B. said...

One thing that caught my eye about Dr. Higgins seclusion while reading this is when it says " He continued to teach until he retired in 1996, but his lack of research has kept him out of the fray and the fury that has resulted from the discovery of the boson" (211). I find it interesting that he continued to teach but not continued to do research. It was kind of shocking that he kept himself secluded even though he has this major achievement. Usually people who don't really care for the spot light tend to seclude themselves off completely but that fact that he continued to teach and just not do any research was surprising.
-Ivyanne B.

Kiana S said...

In regards to Dr. Higgs's seclusion, I would say he seems like the kind of guy who wants to do his work and be left alone. In the article, it states "'I've learned to just say no,' he said of people stopping him on the street and asking for a photograph. (p.208)" Dr. Higgs has managed to stay in touch with the world without owning a television, phone, or use of e-mail. He has made a massive discovery in the world of science, but he doesn't let that get to his head in any way. Even after the discovery he continued to teach, turned down an offer of knighthood, and almost belittled his work as unintentional (p.211). He is definitely not a man looking to be in the limelight.

Youssef Hassan said...

As i was reading this article i was already interested when Peter Higgs was introduced because i have heard about the Higgs boson and the Higgs field but i did not really know what they were. I found Dr. Higg's seclusion interesting as soon as i read that he did not own television or a cell phone. I understand not having a television but i was shocked when i read that he does not have an email either. It also suprised me when i read that he does not do much research currently until i read that he had given up on research, concluding that high energy particle physics had moved beyond him (210).

Jaleel Fuquay said...

I also found it really interesting that Dr. Higgins kept teaching without doing research. It seems like today you can hardly find an instructor who doesn't do research while also teaching. I do think Dr. Higgins was courageous in that aspect though. He has a major achievement and he could have been a huge star but he stayed out of the spotlight and only continued to teach. He was obviously not in it for stardom.

Desmond Crumer said...

Fame and fortune come and go. Those that achieve it often revel in the spotlight. What surprised me the most about Dr. Higgs is his negative affinity to this spotlight. "I've learned to just say no,' [when people ask for an autograph]". Whether it was noble humility or selfish arrogance, the aversion to the spotlight after such an amazing discovery is interesting.

Mackenzie Cohoon said...

What really stuck out to me was the fact that "Dr. Higgs doesn't really know how much commotion his award has caused" (208). This was refreshing tome because typically people would relish in the mere fact that they got an award, taking every opportunity they could to boast about it. The fact that he wasn't worried about what people thought of his award shows humility that I admire.

Kalonji Rumph said...

I just found it interesting how Higg's research, which seemed irrelevant initially, suddenly became relevant out of nowhere. I guess it was a case of a creative or brilliant person being ahead of his time. It took decades for Higg's peers to catch up and realize that the missing piece of so many of their theories was sitting right in front of them. By then, Dr. Higgs had already moved on to a different theory(210). When he started getting the recognition he had already become a skeptic of his own work which I found amusing.

Raillane Kamdem said...

I found this chapter to be particularly quite interesting. I was awestruck at Dr. Higgs and his research that he performed. I think science is quite amazing as new research emerges and allows me to learn new things everyday about different scientific feats. On page, 210 i found it astounding that his information was seemingly irrelevant until it became a focal point out of no where! It was interesting to see everything that Dr. Higgs accomplished.

Tyla Lucas said...

I thought it was really interesting that Dr. Higgs downplays his role in the Higgs Boson. I think that to Dr. Higgs he was not the sole contributor to the discovery and does not want all the credit that comes with it. He states ““I was calling it the ABEGHHKH mechanism” reeling off the initials for all those who had contributed to the theory” (210). Yes, Dr. Higgs theory has made great leaps and bounds for science, but he had help too. I believe he does not want those peoples hard work to go unnoticed whiled he has all the fame and attention.

Alliyah M. said...

One interesting aspect of Higg's seclusion that caught my attention was described in a quote on page 210. Overbye stated, "There was another round when the LEP was closing down in 2000, despite claims from some scientists that they had seen traces of the Higgs boson...By then Dr. Higgs had given up doing research, concluding that high-energy particle physics had moved beyond him"(210).

I found it shocking that Riggs decided to move on from the research and discovery he's worked on for a majority of his career, especially during a time when scientist possibly found the Higgs boson. I think he felt that science already forgot about him and didn't find his discovery relevant anymore. I think this shows how secluded he was from what was happening in the world and how humble he was about his accomplishments throughout his career.

Christine Sheriff said...

Dr. Higgs was very different in the way he took to seclusion. I found it interesting that despite spending years researching, Higgs also decided to move on to a different theory. This can be found on page 210 that states, "By then Dr. HIggs had given up doing research..." By the time the science world wanted him, he was already onto the next thing! It is amazing that with all his research I had not learned about him before.

Brianna Pickens said...

Honestly, I found the entire article kind of bizarre. Most Nobel prize winners, while humble, are more than willing to sit down for an interview about their work. They view their work as a huge accomplishment and love to talk about it because it is something that just started off as a curiosity and it eventually grew. Yet, Higgs seemed to seclude himself from society... the author of this article couldn't even get an interview with him(Overbye 208). Not because Overbye wasn't good enough, but because he just was not interested in talking about it. This sort of seclusion is focused on throughout the entire article, it is really quite strange.
-Brianna Pickens

Lena Searcy said...

I thought Dr. Higgs seclusion was an interesting parallel to his scientific achievements. Although he contributed greatly to the scientific world, he did not even use emails or cell phones, page 211 states, "...he had become an Edinburgh tourist attraction, a sort of walking monument to science..." I would assume someone with such scientific curiosity would be more interested in sharing their discoveries and discussing with people around the world through technology.

Stella Nguepnang said...

The part of Dr. Higgs seclusion that really caught my eye was when he said, "I have learned to say no." I am a people pleaser so I always admire when people are able to refuse someone or displease them without caring. For a celebrity, fans can make or break you even more than a stranger or even friend. So I admired how fearless he was. I related to it more than anything about his science so it made it more relevant for me.

Shaina Falkner said...

What stood out to me while reading Dennis Overbye's piece was, on page 210, he explained that Dr. Briggs had given up doing research after a while, after his accomplishments in the world of science. He had discovered very important and useful information. He was an intelligent, successful scientist whom, had he continued to research, could've made more discoveries in science that could even help save lives.

Rodney Clark said...

"A Pioneer as Elusive as His Particle", written by Dennis Overbye, is all about an assistant professor who uncovered the presence of an unknown particle now known as a boson. The professor, Dr. Higgs, is a man who has a lot of passion for physics. The article also talks about how his particles give mass to other ones. This discovery brings understanding how particles go even deeper. People went as far as to compare him to another theorist, James Maxwell. Although not many people are interested in physics, quite a few people still wished to take photographs with the man. Despite already winning a Nobel prize and being honored, Higgs continued to teach until 1996. Throughout his life he showed that he truly does care about his career and the scientific community as a whole.

-Rodney Clark

Joke Adanri said...

The part I found the most interesting was on page 210 Dr. Higgs originally called the boson the ABEGHHKH based on the initials of everyone who contributed to the theory. I found this incredible because it was based on his research, and even and although it was eventually named the Higgs boson I was interested to know he originally named it after those who helped him in his discovery.

Kamela Cross said...

That part that caught my attention about Dr. Higgs is the fact that he didn't have a TV and didn't use email or cell phone, but is still informed about things around him. Although that should be a disadvantage in this economy, he didn't allow it to handicap him. However, it was his decline from researching that did seem like it would be a negative towards the science community. While he was getting to an old age, he seemed like a true lover of science, so his dismissal to continue researching seemed odd to me. Though I am glad he continued to teach, even if he didn't continue his research.

Chidera Onyeizeh said...

Page 208 where he always said no when people asked for a photograph. This shows that he was really seen which is similar to his discovery of that partical and partials are hard to be seen with the naked eye. It takes more to see a partial just as it takes a lot to get Dr. Higgs into the public eyes.


Chidera Onyeizeh

Devin Ellis-Martin said...

Dr. Higgs’ seclusion was most interesting because his award was prestigious, yet he did not gloat (208). It shows his own humility which is something many people can learn from and can take something from. Many people today are too arrogant and boastful about their own lives.

Kelsey McNeil said...

This reading was interesting because Dr. Higgs had such an impact on science since he won a prize for it. What stuck out to me was how he did not seem to like the attention he was getting. One page 208 this is said: "'I've learned to just say no,' he said of people stopping him on the street and asking him for a photograph." While it is understandable to not always want to be stopped on the street, I would think that someone that won a prize as big as the Nobel Prize would want to be sort of proud and show his award off. However, it was a very interesting reading nonetheless. Another part of the seclusion that I thought was interesting was how is says that Dr. Higgs doesn't have a T.V., phone, or email (207). I just thought that was a funny part because I would think it would be hard to live in the world today without an email at least.

Kendall Clark said...

One thing I found interesting about Dr. Higgs seclusion was his adjustment to his new celebrity personality. The reading stated Dr. Higgs had "learned to say no" when it came to people asking for photographs on the streets (208). I find this especially interesting because it seems to me most people would love this type of publicity for their hard work. It is not often we hear about celebrities who are so open about denying people photos or autographs, yet it seems Dr. Higgs so easily turned people down time and time again.

Kameryn Sabino said...

One thing I found interesting about his seclusion was that he was a tourist attraction himself, before his Nobel prize got him his place in history. In this article it says "Even before the Nobel sealed his place in history, he had become an Edinburgh tourist attraction, a sort of walking monument to science, winner of the 2011 Edinburgh Award for his "outstanding contribution to the city". He gave up, came back. Despite the conclusion scientists made about the value of Higgs being random, he smiled and shared his thoughts.

-Kameryn Sabino

TOMIKA COLLINS said...

The work that Dr. Higgs contributed was mind boggling. What interested me the most was on page 210 where Dr Higgs decided to move on to another theory after the world of science became interested in his works. "By then Dr. Higgs had given up doing research..." He also started to doubt his own theories after his work was sought out. I wonder why he questioned himself at that point? You would think that at the point of admiration is when he would have felt the most proud.

Jayla Pierce said...

I really appreciate how humble Dr. Higgs was, he admitted proudly that he wasn’t the first one to discover what he became so famous for, he admitted to making mistakes, and even refused an offer of knighthood. It’s so easy to get caught up in the fame or victory or in our own accomplishments that we tend to get prideful. We start to not admit our mistakes, not even to our selves, or even forget where we came from. Dr. Higgs wasn’t interested in the fame that came with his intelligence, he was more focused on the science behind it and letting it be known. I always find it inspiring to read about someone or hear about someone who doesn't brag about their accomplishments but is truly proud of themselves for the right reasons. We as a society now tend to forget why we chose to begin those accomplishments in the first place.

Taija Cook said...

The one thing that surprised me about Dr. Higgs is how he continued teaching and stopped doing research after making such a big discovery. On page 211 it states that he continued to teach until he retired in 1996.Most people in the science community continue to research on their success until they cannot anymore. Dr.Higgs thought it was more important to teach the next generation instead of devoting to himself. With him doing this it made him look vey selfless and a guy that I would love to learn form.

Anonymous said...

In Dennis Overbye’s article “A Pioneer as Exclusive as His Particle”, we learn of Dr. Peter Higgs who came up with the initial theory of the God particle. The most intriguing part of the Dr. himself was that he was a rare sight to see even though he was a famous physicist who won a Noble Prize. Despite Dr. Higgs being hard to find and communicate with, I find him interesting because he seemed so nonchalant about the whole thing. He was doing what we may think a Noble Prize wouldn’t be doing: nothing. He says that he called the particle the “ABEGHHKH mechanism” (pg. 210). This shows that even though the particle is in fact named after him, Dr. Higgs seems to want to stay lowkey and remain a small status. This is surprising since the guy is a literal prize winner. It is almost comedic in a sense. Jonathan S.

Anonymous said...

Dennis Overbye’s article “A Pioneer as Elusive as His Particle” focuses on Dr. Peter Higgs, a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. Dr. Higgs is known for his contribution in predicting the existence of a particle, now known as the Higgs boson, that explained how particles get mass. Interestingly enough, while Dr. Higgs was highly regarded for his discovery, Overbye illustrates how Higgs avoids attention. After reading Overbye’s article, what was one point about Dr. Higgs's seclusion that caught your attention? Why was that interesting in comparison to his noteworthy contribution to science? Please provide a page number citation.

One point about Dr.Higg's seclusion that caught my eye is how easily he could be removed from the entire world and yet be the maker of the "God particle" that surrounds some of our everything things. The author states, "Dr.Higgs, now 85, doesn't own a television or use e-mail or a cell phone" (207). I find it mind boggling that one could be so removed from society while maintaining such a high level of respect from the science world. Toriel S.

Anonymous said...

One aspect of this story that I found to be the most intriguing was the fact that Dr. Higgs had made the selfless decision to continue teaching students and put a halt on his research even after making such a prolific scientific discovery. My favorite quote from the reading was the one on page 211 that read " He continued to teach until he retired in 1996, but his lack of research has kept him out of the fray " (211)". From my personal observations and experiences, people in the science field continue researching and conducting experiences until they simply reach a point where they mentally cannot work anymore. However, Dr.Higgs was different, he thought that it would be more important to inform the next generation of scientists to continue his work as opposed to devoting the research to himself. In doing this, Dr. Higgs doing this. he truly showed not only his selfishness but also his dedication to contributing to science as a whole.
Kobi Phillips

Ronnie Akpan said...

In "A Pioneer as Elusive as His Particle", Dr. Higgs is a world-renowned physicist who garnered fame for his hypothesis about the existence of a particle. The trait about him that really stands out to me is how doubtful and insecure Higgs is about his discoveries. This may be due to certain moral beliefs he has or he just endured a tragic point in his life that caused him to have such insecurities. Nonetheless, Higgs' discoveries paved the way for what scientists have researched, found, and will soon find in years to come.

Qcadwell said...

What struck me was how humble Higgs was during the entirety of his life. He is obscure and avoids notoriety. Higgs really sees him self as a regular everyday guy, he even turned down a knighthood. What struck me was that he is so humble despite being one of the most important scientists ever, first theorizing the Higgs boson "God" particle which was later discovered, thus providing insight into how the universe was created

Argos 1756 said...

I found it interesting how Higg's research was seemingly unimportant and then became very relevant. Also his reaction to the spotlight was different than what I expected. Many people would embrace this. The fact that he chose to no longer do research shows how uncomfortable he felt.

Anonymous said...

One point about Dr. Higgs’s seclusion that caught my attention is that he kept teaching without doing any continued research. In the text it says “ He continued to teach until he retired in 1996, but his lack of research has kept him out of the fray and the fury that has resulted from the discovery of the boson”(211). This shows that he believed in his previous knowledge so much that he felt that he didnt need to do anymore research. Thomas M.

Dayejah Coates said...

Something that stood out to me about Dr. Higg's seclusion was that on page 210 Overbye stated that he continued to teach, but not research. This was interesting to me because I couldn't help but question if he discontinued research simply because he did not want to be in the limelight. This really amazed me because I feel as though he has to have a strong dislike for being in the public's eye if he would give up something he was so good at it when he did not have to.

Jada Baker said...

On page 208 the author says, " Dr. Higgs said he had adjusted, sort of, to his Nobel celebrity. "I've learned to just say no," he said of people stopping him on the street and asking for a picture." I find this to be interesting because I believe most would enjoy this fame that he is getting. Though his scientific contributions were fame worthy, he did not want to accept the fame.

Christen King said...

Dr. Higgs seclusion from the spotlight is interesting, and almost admirable. I do not see many people in today's time that do something a revolutionary as he did and turn down the fame that comes with it. He doesn't seemed phased with his work, almost, like it kinda just happened and its whatever. I get this assumption from pg. 211 when he claims his work as one of many silly mistakes. The one quote I found to be very interesting was on p. 208 when he stated "I've learned to just say no"; this is in regard to people stopping him on the street to ask for pictures. This shows his lack of care, not in a bad way, towards his findings and his status. He just wanted to continue living his day-to-day life, and did not seem to find his discovery as important as the rest of the world. His desire to continue on with his life, as I stated in the beginning, is admirable, to say the least.

josh tibbs said...

One thing that caught my attention about Peter Higgs’ seclusion was the fact that he wasn’t trying to be in the spot light. He did something so incredible and the fact that he didn’t want to be famous is crazy to me because there are so many people who will do anything to be famous and a lot of the people that are famous don’t even have a talent or even a degree and I don’t think any of them have done anything as important as he has. He even started to decline people who wanted pictures with him, his humbleness is admirable in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

One thing that caught my attention about Peter Higgs’ seclusion was the fact that he wasn’t trying to be in the spot light. He did something so incredible and the fact that he didn’t want to be famous is crazy to me because there are so many people who will do anything to be famous and a lot of the people that are famous don’t even have a talent or even a degree and I don’t think any of them have done anything as important as he has. He even started to decline people who wanted pictures with him, his humbleness is admirable in my opinion. Joshua T.

Anonymous said...

It was pretty cool that Peter Higgs kept pursuing teaching without doing research. Typically research is used to further educate an individual on their area of studying, and to not do that and still be knowledgeable is phenomenal. It was also humble of him to not be in the spotlight, its honorable to take a step back and be humble in the professional education field.
James Beverly III

Samontriona P said...

As I read Dr. Higgs Seclusion, one thing that caught my eye was that he moved on to something else and stopped researching. This caught my attention because he was a man that had a great passion for physics, yet he stopped his research and continued to teach. This brought me to the realization that he was a very humble man and wasn't a man that liked to brag about what he had done. He is an admirable man.

Jasmyn Kloster said...

Dennis Overbye’s article “A Pioneer as Elusive as His Particle” focuses on Dr. Peter Higgs. One thing that stuck out to me about Higgs was his seclusion from the spotlight. He was able to figure out this amazing thing and then not care about the fame that came with it. It was also shocking to me that he continued to teach when he stopped his research. He had a major achievement but stayed very calm about it which was interesting and admirable.

Anonymous said...

It was impressive to me that in Dennis Overbye's article, Dr. Peter Higgs was able to basically avoid the spotlight, yet still manage to continue teaching at the same time, "He continued to teach until he retired in 1996, but his lack of research has kept him out of the fray and the fury that has resulted from the discovery of the boson" (211). Most people with his same credentials would relish the limelight; however, Dr. Higgs did the exact opposite and ducked away from it.
-Kevin Cox

Isaiah Johnson said...

I know this may sound cheesy or over-celebrated, but Dr. Higgs' denial of the limelight really stuck out to me as not only rare, but showing how he really cared about his work and teaching. Not many people are like him, especially today with social media: Everybody wants attention. But that really paid of for Dr. Higgs, as he discovered the Higgs Boson.

Kiara Coker said...

Dr. Higga decision to seclude himself stuck out to me for many reasons. At first, I believed that he was selfish and rude by denying autographs and photos but as I kept reading I realized that it wasn't that at all. He was merely trying to maintain a calm and private life. After all his success he still wanted to research and teach but he did not want to live a life of that was easily accessible to the public which is completely understandable. I believe he also knows how ruthless and greedy our species is so by him keeping some things to himself he maybe was able to keep some other precious things safe.

Alishiana Ivy said...


Dennis Overbye’s “A Pioneer as elusive as his particle” was a very well written article. One point that caught my attention was how he spent all those years researching just to stop and go to something else. On page 210 it concludes that “Dr.higgs have given up..”. I felt that it was a little ironic that he had given up right when people were beginning to recognize his research. I don't think that he should have given up, he probably could have came up with more research.

Chikelue Nkemeh said...

I find the fact that Dr.Higga chooses to be alone in isolation confusing and strange. I understand the fact he wishes to have a private and reasonable lifestyle for himself, but that type of intellect makes him stand out as a figure for one to look up too. Also, the fact that he denys pictures and autographs seems odd, as it seems that these encounters would take a small bit of time and he can return to his research. Also to not acknowledge the fact you won a prestigious award rubs me the wrong way."Dr. Higgs doesn't really know how much commotion his award has caused" (208).

Breonna Roberts said...

I think Dr. Higgins himself is very interesting as a person but one part from the reading that caught my attention was the fact that although he was very smart in his field, he decided to just quit and do something else. The sentence that stood out the most to me was on page 210, " By then Dr. Higgins had given up on his research, concluding that high energy particles had moved beyond him." which means after all the work and time he had put into his findings, one day he just decided it was enough. Although, he had moved on to something else to work on, maybe for the rest of his life.

Alishiana Ivy said...


Dennis Overbye’s “A Pioneer as elusive as his particle” was a very well written article. One point that caught my attention was how he spent all those years researching just to stop and go to something else. On page 210 it concludes that “Dr.higgs have given up..”. I felt that it was a little ironic that he had given up right when people were beginning to recognize his research. I don't think that he should have given up, he probably could have came up with more research.
- Alishiana Ivy

Alishiana Ivy said...


Dennis Overbye’s “A Pioneer as elusive as his particle” was a very well written article. One point that caught my attention was how he spent all those years researching just to stop and go to something else. On page 210 it concludes that “Dr.higgs have given up..”. I felt that it was a little ironic that he had given up right when people were beginning to recognize his research. I don't think that he should have given up, he probably could have came up with more research.
-Alishiana Ivy

Diana Lienemann said...

After reading the article, I found Dr. Higgs to be an interesting person. He does not have an e-mail, he does not own a phone, or even a television, and still manages to keep in touch with the world around him. That is difficult in today's society. I, for one, feel like I need my phone because without it, I would be terribly behind with school and work. On page 208, the author writes "'I've learned to just say no,' he said of people stopping him on the street and asking for a photograph." Honestly, good for Dr. Higgs for being able to say no. To me, Dr. Higgs seems like the type of person that just wants to do his work and not be bothered about it. He doesn't do it for the attention or for the fame. In the beginning of the article on page 207, Dr. Higgs replied "What prize?" when told he had won the Nobel Prize in Physics. He was joking, but the point still stands: he did all the research he did because he like to and because it interested him; he did not do it for the fame. I also believe that that is why he gave up on the research when he found it to be out of his league. He knows what he is capable of, and he knew when to stop.

Dejanee Geeters said...

One thing that caught my eye about Dr. Higgins seclusion while reading this is when it says " He continued to teach until he retired in 1996, but his lack of research has kept him out of the fray and the fury that has resulted from the discovery of the boson" (211). I find it interesting that he continued to teach but not continued to do research. I found Dr. Higgs to be an interesting person. He does not have an e-mail, he does not own a phone, or even a television, and still manages to keep in touch with the world around him.The sentence that stood out the most to me was on page 210, " By then Dr. Higgins had given up on his research, concluding that high energy particles had moved beyond him." which means after all the work and time he had put into his findings, one day he just decided it was enough. I believe he also knows how ruthless and greedy our species is so by him keeping some things to himself he maybe was able to keep some other precious things safe.