Hawking bets CERN mega-machine won't find 'God's Particle'
Africa former President Nelson Mandela (right) meets with
British scientist Professor Stephen Hawking in Johannesburg.
Hawking has bet 100 dollars (70 euros) that a mega-experiment
this week will not find an elusive particle seen as a holy grail
of cosmic science, he said.
Renowned British astrophysicist
Stephen Hawking has bet 100 dollars (70 euros) that a
mega-experiment this week will not find an elusive particle seen
as a holy grail of cosmic science, he said Tuesday.
In the most complex
scientific experiment ever undertaken, the Large Hadron Collider
(LHC) will be switched on Wednesday, accelerating sub-atomic
particles to nearly the speed of light before smashing them
"The LHC will increase the energy at which we can study particle
interactions by a factor of four. According to present thinking,
this should be enough to discover the Higgs particle," Hawking
told BBC radio.
"I think it will be much more exciting if we don't find the
Higgs. That will show something is wrong, and we need to think
again. I have a bet of 100 dollars that we won't find the
Higgs," added Hawking, whose books including "A Brief History of
Time" have sought to popularise study of stellar physics.
On Wednesday the first protons will be injected into a
27-kilometre (16.9-mile) ring-shaped tunnel, straddling the
Swiss-French border at the headquarters of the European
Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN).
Physicists have long puzzled over how particles acquire mass. In
1964, a British physicist, Peter Higgs, came up with this idea:
there must exist a background field that would act rather like
Some scientists were however more optimistic.
Hubert Reeves, the French astrophysician, told the Swiss daily
Le Matin that the invention could bring "unexpected results"
that would change the world of particle physics forever.
"This machine will
probably bring unexpected results that could turn particle
physics on its head," Reeves said.
"It's a really impressive tool. It can go as deep underground as
the length of a cathedral," he said.
Particles passing through it would acquire mass by being dragged
through a mediator, which theoreticians dubbed the Higgs Boson.
The standard quip about the Higgs is that it is the "God
Particle" -- it is everywhere but remains frustratingly elusive.
While questioning the likelihood of finding Higgs Bosons,
Hawking said the experiment could discover superpartners,
particles that would be "supersymmetric partners" to particles
already known about.
"Their existence would be a key confirmation of string theory,
and they could make up the mysterious dark matter that holds
galaxies together," he told the BBC.
"Whatever the LHC
finds, or fails to find, the results will tell us a lot about
the structure of the universe," he added.
Hawking, the 66-year-old Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at
Cambridge University, was diagnosed with the muscle-wasting
motor neuron disease at the age of 22.
He is in a wheelchair and speaks with the aid of a computer and
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