Higgs boson costs Stephen Hawking $100 bet

Jul 4, 2012
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CERN's confirmation this morning on the discovery of a Higgs boson-like particle has the science community in gleeful uproar, though for Professor Stephen Hawking the breakthrough is bitter-sweet. While the famous physicist has been an outspoken proponent of Higgs boson research, he also apparently expected the mysterious particle to prove more elusive: he bet professor Gordon King of Michigan University $100 dollars that it wouldn't be found, Hawking told the BBC.

"The results at Fermi lab in America and CERN in Switzerland strongly suggest that we have found the next particle, the particle that gives mass to other particles. If the decay number interactions of this particle are as we expect, it will be strong evidence for the so-called Standard Model of particle physics, the theory that explains all our experiments so far" Hawking said of today's announcement.

"This is an important result and should guaranty Higgs the Nobel Prize" the physicist predicted. "But it is a pity in a way, because the great advances in physics have come from experiments that gave results we didn't expect. For this reason, I had a bet with Gordon King of Michigan University that the Higgs particle wouldn't be found. It seems I have just lost $100."

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CERN's discovery, announced earlier today, didn't stint on the technical detail, and so the team wheeled out professor of physics Alexey Petrov of Wayne State University to put the Higgs news into context. His explanation is still relatively high-level, but at the core it's about how massless particles interact with another particle - the Higgs boson - and are thus given force.

"[The discovery] tells us that our ideas on how electroweak symmetry is broken are at least partially correct. This is also the first truly elementary particle discovered since the Z-boson. There are still many questions, both experimental and theoretical, about the analyses presented today at CERN. What is going on with the H → ττ channel? Is it really a Standard Model Higgs boson? Or some other scalar particle. We’ll sure to study those things indeed" Alexey Petrov, WSU


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