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Stephen Hawking lost $100 bet over Higgs boson discovery (bbc.co.uk)
177 points by mproud on July 4, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 41 comments

His smile at the end of the video is priceless.

I came here to say the same thing. I had no idea he could smile. This is almost as important as learning of the Higgs boson.

I'm so glad you mentioned that, I wasn't going to watch it at first. A synopsis prepared by Hawking hours earlier read on command by his robot voice, all the while having the camera focused on him while he's shifting in his seat waiting for the statement to end, didn't interest me. But that smile at the end made my week.

Came to say this, ditto.

This truly is breaking news

Eliezer Yudkowsky (AI researcher) also lost his bet it seems (http://lesswrong.com/lw/1dt/open_thread_november_2009/17xb).

Yep! Congratulations to the field of physics as a whole for having a substantially better grasp on... call it, "completing the pattern of reality"... than I thought it did. My credence in dark matter and dark energy is also substantially increased.

I remember having a conversation with Peter Thiel at the Singularity Summit in 2009 where he expressed a pretty strong opinion that humanity seriously pursuing advances in theoretical Physics was a momentous waste of brain power. At the time I was a relatively recent Physics graduate, I wasn't too pleased to hear that. I wonder if his opinion on this has changed at all.

Anyway, nice to have you here Eliezer ... like the commenter below, I'm a massive Methods of Rationality fan too :).

Yeah, Peter Thiel also thinks college is a waste of time, because you could be working at making a bunch of money instead.

The fact of the matter is, without the continuous research and application of this type of "momentous waste of brain power", we wouldn't have the accessible and affordable technology to enable his wealth and position where people think they should give a shit what he thinks about science.

Peter Thiel doesn't think Einstein was wasting his time, and isn't expressing disapprobation of physics or science; he's expressing disapprobation of modern physics-academia, and the presumption that the thing to do with your genius is obviously string theory.

Well, maybe what would be easier is to waste massive amounts of brain power in building computers that can solve the most complicated issues in theoretical physics

But of course, for theoretical physics to advance, experimental physics has to advance as well...

I am curious to know about his arguments. Do you remember them ?

With all that brainpower they could almost certainly crack the Facebook monetization problem, because all that data has got to be worth something. Theoretical Physics? Well that will never break him into the 11 figures no matter how many bosons they discover.

Semi-offtopic, but I'm currently reading his book, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, and it's just amazing. Quite a page-turner. I highly recommend it.

Also, I've never read any of the original Harry Potter books, so don't sweat it if you haven't either.

Also offtopic: for anyone interested in starting it, especially late in the evening, try http://www.comic-rocket.com/go?uri=http%3A//hpmor.com/chapte... ; that way, when it gets to be early in the morning, you can stop, mark your place, and come back later.

The actual ebook is here: http://hpmor.com/

I'm currently reading it to my 11 year old son (who loves it). I love how it gives me an opportunity to sneak in some lectures on rationality as I explain some of the jokes.

Hell, I want to have a son just to read it to him. Also, maybe I should give it to a few of my friends...

Hell yes, that is an excellent story. Glad other hackers are enjoying it too :)

Does anybody else hate videos w/o an abstract or short description?

I can read/skim faster than videos play so I hate video news where I have to waste a couple of minutes when I could have read it in 30 seconds.

This is not the first time Hawking has made such a bet.


Did he make the bet because: a) He did not believe Higgs boson exists? b) He believed Higgs boson exists, but could not be "found"? c) Just for fun d) Publicity stunt

May be to pose a challenge to Higgs.

What else are they going to do with LHC now?

There is quite a few broad topics suggested for the LHC[1], and even right now there are 3 other experiments running on it[2]. (ATLAS is the Higg's boson experiment, although it isn't just looking for the Higg's boson.)

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Large_Hadron_Collider#Purpose [2]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Large_Hadron_Collider_e...

Figure out how the heck the Higgs boson actually behaves, for starters (they just found it). But my understanding is the LHC is not a single-purpose tool. You can observe a variety of particles at a variety of energies.

edit: s/behave/observe/

They're going to shut it down towards the end of the year, refurbish it, and boost the energy level significantly.


Fair enough they've found proof that Higgs Boson exists but this is only the beginning. Nothing will come of this discovery for a very long time, it's a start but there are many more years of research before any benefit of this discovery is seen or felt. Great news though, I knew they'd find it eventually.

The same could be said of many subatomic particles that were found as we built larger and larger colliders.... it's a very big deal in advancing our understanding of.... everything.

I don't mean to double post, but I noticed that Stephen Wolfram (no stranger to physics) has even come out saying that he is disappointed and believes the chances of another discovery in this lifetime are pretty low. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/07/why-th...

We've proved the simple model, but as I said I don't think anything else will come of this and even if something does come of this I doubt you or I will be alive to see the results.

I'm not saying it's not a big deal, but what I am saying is this means nothing at this point in time. Discovering proof of the Higgs Boson opens up the possibility of understanding our universe and how things work, but at present the discovery means nothing to anyone but the investors involved and the employee's at CERN who keep their jobs for another few years.

There is a possibility that even though we've discovered the Higgs, nothing else will ever be discovered or come of it.

Seems like he was betting $100 on altruism.

I have no idea how to feel after watching this video.

Think of it this way.

What does Stephen Hawking get if he is wrong?

-$100 dollars

+Media coverage saying that he was wrong which promotes physics.

What does Stephen Hawking get if he is right?

+$100 dollars

+Media coverage saying that Stephen Hawking is right which promotes physics.

This is not altruism this is intelligent promotion of a topic that you want children and young adults to be educated in.

It is a paid advertisement for physics by a celebrity. Similar to athletes who get paid endorsements. It encourages people to challenge him. Using his celebrity status can inspire people into doing Physics, Math or Engineering. We need more scientists and engineers. Professor Hawking knows Physics but even better he knows how the play the media.

XKCD mentioned a similar idea a while back. http://xkcd.com/955/.

I wouldn't say altruism, more like an anarchist's expectation. It seems some people would've liked there to be no observation just to 'shake things up' and then have to move to a new model. Hawking does mention in the video that the greatest discoveries come from unexpected results. The Higgs Boson has been expected for decades.

When predictions come up as expected, it's no fun!

I'm a physicist, and I can predicting something then the measurement matching the prediction is freakin' awesome! I have loads of "amazing how well physics works" moments in the lab all the time.

Of course, when it doesn't, it's time for more theory, then more labs, which is fun as well indeed. It's a win-win.

Nope, he is just reminding every person on earth, and especially scientists, that science is not dogmatic, that there is no set stone, that to every Ptolemic theory we may hold, a Copernican view is waiting to be expounded.

Something I've wondered, presumably for several hundred years, Ptolemy's observations could be thought of as the standard model, and consistently day after day, year after year, the sun rose in the east and set in the west to 5 or 6 sigma etc.. that it could be said was proof he was correct. Ptolemy is often spoken in the pejorative, but for so long until the man from Krakow came along, how could you prove otherwise? Does this situation apply today and that a future "Copernicus" will turn the Higgs Boson on its head? Genuinely interested how a consistent set of findings which correspond to predictions, can really be said to prove a discovery?

But remember, his theory had huge holes, such as the movement of the planets. Newton's model, too, explained much more, but still not everything, and Einstein then helped fill that gap. It's not a case of Model A is 100% right but, look!, Model B is also 100% right and better. It's more like Model A is 97%, Model B 99.1%,...

"The Egyptians pride themselves on being the most ancient people in the world. In their authentic annals ... one may read that since they have been in existence, the course of the stars has changed direction four times, and that the sun has set twice in that part of the sky where it rises today."

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