Betting and physics are not usually two things that go hand-in-hand but news of scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) exchanging wagers has become a huge talking point in recent weeks.
The Big Bet
The main bet that’s been getting people talking is between Nobel Prize winner Frank Wilczek and his Swedish colleague Tord Ekelof.
Wilczek wagered that scientists would discover a new kind of ‘superpartner’ particle, following on from the 2012 discovery of the Higgs-Boson ‘God particle’, at the LHC by the year 2019.
What was at stake? Well, if Wilczek won the bet then he would be the proud recipient of 100 Nobel Prize chocolate coins.
Obviously far better than the real thing… If he lost then he would have to pay up to Ekelof.
The Nobel Prize chocolate coins in question can be purchased at the Nobel museum located in the former Stock Exchange Building in the old town area of the Swedish city of Stockholm.
When asked about the quality of the chocolate, Wilczek stated that it was, “not the museum’s selling point”.
Maybe Wilczek knew the odds of winning the bet were poor so just wanted to punish Ekelof with some disgusting chocolate? Physics bro jokes? Maybe.
So, it’s not a bet that rivals the $5.9 million bet that Floyd Mayweather placed on Miami Heat to beat the Indiana Pacers in the NBA in 2013 or the $3.5 million that Billy Walters wagered on New Orleans Saints beating Indianapolis Colts at the 2010 Super Bowl but this is big betting in the physics world.
Second Time Unlucky?
This isn’t a first for betting in the world of physics either. Wilczek was at the centre of a cheeky bit of betting chat back in 2012 when the Higgs-Boson particle was revealed.
On that occasion, physics professor Janet Conrad challenged Wilczek to a bet on whether the particle would ever be discovered. Wilczek won the bet that time.
Unfortunately, Wilczek is not so confident in repeating that feat this time around. Tests have not produced the results that the team at the CERN laboratory in Switzerland had hoped and time is now indeed running out.
Wilczek spoke of the bet, saying, “The LHC has already done a lot of the exploration that it will have done by the end of the terms of the bet. The window of opportunity is closing pretty rapidly, I’m afraid.”
SUSY – Here Comes the Science!
The particle in question is supersymmetry, also known as SUSY. Superpartner particles, such as SUSY, supposedly possess the power to link the two larger sets of particles called bosons and fermions.
Supersymmetry states that every boson, like gluons and photons, would have a complementary and heavier fermion. In return, every fermion, such as electrons and quarks, would have a complementary and heavier boson.
Unless you’re a PhD in physics then this part will likely be going over your head. Don’t worry, that’s why it’s left to a team of scientists in an underground European laboratory!
There had been a glimmer of hope of progress being made when it came to supersymmetry after scientists thought they had discovered two separate but complementary particles at the LHC in 2016. Sadly, nothing came from the experiment and the wait goes on.
Wilczek has now openly admitted that hopes of making such a discovery before 2020 are fading fast. It could even be a number of decades before a new collider machine is built in order to discover higher energy particles.
LHC – Re-Defining Physics
The LHC has been an exciting and influential laboratory since it was constructed back in 2008. It is the largest and most powerful particle collider in the world.
It was built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and took 10 years to complete with more than 10,000 scientists from 100 different countries involved in its construction.
Incredibly, the tunnel structure is 17 miles in circumference and is located 574 feet below the surface of the ground, underneath the French-Swiss border just outside the city of Geneva in Switzerland.
It is hoped that the LHC may enable scientists to physically test the predictions of different particle physics theories that are in existence. Measuring parts of the Higgs-Boson particle and identifying the existence of new particles is a prime aim of the work being done at CERN.
There is also the possibility of making new discoveries, solving long-standing questions within the field of physics, and winning yourself a tasty bit of chocolate!