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Stories by Amir Aczel

The Sciences

A Higgs Setback: Did Stephen Hawking Just Win the Most Outrageous Bet in Physics History?

A few years ago, celebrated British physicist Stephen Hawking was widely reported in the press to have placed a provocative public bet that the LHC (along with all particle accelerators that preceded it) would never find the Higgs boson, the so-called “God particle” believed responsible for having imbued massive particles with their mass when the universe was very young.His pronouncement caused a stir in the global physics community, and the Scottish physicist Peter Higgs, whose name had gotten attached to the hypothetical particle (Higgs had done some work in the 1960s, as had several other physicists, paving the way for the theoretical existence of the mass-imparting boson) took the challenge personally, complained about Hawking, and later lamented that to answer Hawking’s challenge would have been "like criticizing the late Princess Diana."In fact, informal polls of physicists over the last decade have shown that an overwhelming majority believed that the existence of the Higgs was a foregone conclusion and that all that was needed was simply to run the LHC long enough: the Higgs would eventually show up...

August 23, 2011 — Amir Aczel
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