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.
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
"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
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 treacle.
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.
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
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
"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 voice synthesiser.