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Tradition of physics wagers : Higgs Boson

  1. Jan 5, 2009 #1
    A friend just showed this to me and I thought it was neat. There's always been a history of physicists wagering on theoretical or experimental results, but it looks like it has spread to the mainstream. You can bet on whether the Higgs boson will be discovered before the end of the year!

    Isn't the LHC shut down, and Fermilab too short on statistics to even have a chance for a five sigma discovery? 20% chance seems very very optimistic

    Anyway, I was curious if people knew of other historic examples of physics wagers. Of course there are the fairly public wagers Hawking had. For particle physics the only one I heard of was (I think) Fermi wagering whether parity would be conserved or not (I don't remember which side he was on, or who was involved). Does anyone know the details or remember any other interesting examples?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 7, 2009 #2


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    Hi Justin,

    There are many many other wagers in physics over history. We're working on a feature about it in symmetry magazine already so we'll have a bunch to tell you about coming up. They include the SLAC National Accelerator Lab bet book, a bunch of bets at Caltech, and various others.

    I am also surprised that that market is still trading at 20%. There is no chance they would have the statistics to claim discovery by then. Even the related 2010 market is optimistic at 50% I think. I'd say a 3-sigma finding might be possible in that time frame but 5 sigma? Not likely. Fermilab is unlikely to get any 5 sigma result except maybe for a very small window of Higgs mass where it might be possible if I remember correctly (though still a very tough call). Fermilab is able to rule out the Higgs at certain masses with high confidence though (and is already doing so.) Next Fermilab Higgs results will be out in March or April, I believe.

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