Stephen Hawking Poised to Lose Yet Another Bet
World renowned scientist Stephen Hawking could lose yet another bet today if the European Organization for Nuclear Research announces the discovery of the elusive Higgs Boson. The expected announcement could turn the 4th of July into a much bigger day than “just” American Independence Day.
In 2000, the British physicist bet University of Michigan physicist Gordon Kane $100 that the Higgs Boson would never be discovered. Word has it that the Europeans who are hunting the particle are set to announce “a footprint and a shadow”, but not a discovery.
British physicist Peter Higgs was the first to hypothesize the Higgs Boson (AKA “God Particle” – though it has no direct connection to God). The Higgs Boson is responsible for creating a field that gives particles mass. Photons (light waves) interact with the field and do not acquire mass; while protons, electrons and other particles receive mass thanks to the Higgs field.
This is not Hawking’s first bet. In 1975, he bet Caltech physicist Kip Thorne a one year subscription to Penthouse that Cygnus X-1, a massive unseen object, wasn’t a black hole. Thorne won the bet and the Penthouse magazines. In another celebrated bet, Hawking and Thorne bet physicist John Preskill that “information swallowed by a black hole is forever hidden from the universe.” Hawking himself solved the equation that lost him the bet and cost him an encyclopedia (from which information can be retrieved at will).
If today’s news pans out, Hawking has one outstanding bet. In 2002, he bet physicist Neil Turok that primordial gravitational waves would be observed. No amount has been set for the bet and no discovery is expected soon.