Dr. Stephen Hawking has made a $100 bet that the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, which throws its first beam tomorrow, will not find the elusive particle knows as the Higgs boson.
What makes the Higgs the most highly sought-after particle in physics? In his TEDTalk, Brian Cox describes the Higgs particle “in language a politician can understand”:
What the Higgs does is, it gives mass to the fundamental particles. The whole universe is full of something called the Higgs field, Higgs particles if you will. [Referring to the sketch above] The analogy is that these people in a room are the Higgs particles. Now, when a particle moves through the universe, it can interact with these particles. But imagine someone who’s not very popular moves through the room, and everyone ignores them. They just pass through the room very quickly, essentially at the speed of light. They’re massless.
Now imagine someone incredibly important, and popular, and intelligent … walks into the room, they’re surrounded by people, and their passage is impeded. It’s almost like they get heavy, they get massive. And that’s exactly the way the Higgs mechanism works. The … electrons and the quarks in your body, and in the universe that we see around us, are heavy, they’re massive, because they’re surrounded by Higgs particles. They’re interacting with the Higgs field.
The physicists at the LHC are looking to the Higgs particle to finally explain some mysteries of the universe. And that’s why Dr. Hawking doesn’t really want it to be found, he says:
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 that we won’t find the Higgs.