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back to article Stephen Hawking: 'Boring' Higgs Boson discovery cost me $100

Stephen Hawking hijacked an event at the Science Museum to tell the world he thinks the Higgs Boson has made physics a boring subject. The celebrated boffin has a long-standing rivalry with Nobel Prize-winner Professor Peter Higgs, who gave his name to the famous "God Particle". At an event in London's Science Museum to …

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Coat

I tried to call Stephen Hawking to complain about this...

...but I kept getting his answering machine.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I tried to call Stephen Hawking to complain about this...

Bad taste but funny

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Re: I tried to call Stephen Hawking to complain about this...

Bad taste would be that the answering machine communicated at 30 baud at best.

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I did 1,000 hours work at University

And therefore I am also a genius.

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Re: I did 1,000 hours work at University

Was it oxford and did you get a first class pass in physics?

;)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I did 1,000 hours work at University

1000 hours at Oxford. Assuming he wasn't working outside term time then that's about 2 hours a day when you consider terms are only 8 weeks long - or nearer to 3 hours a day if he took weekends off. Couple of hours lecture a day and a few hours work outside that ... sounds about right. Oh, and yes, I did get a 1st at Oxford - though it was Maths and not Physics ... though I wasn't anywhere near the 1st/2nd boundary!

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Re: I did 1,000 hours work at University

> Couple of hours lecture a day and a few hours work outside that ... sounds about right.

<choke!>

My Physics BSc. course was roughly 30 hours of lectures and lab work a week. "Homework" on top of that.

Looking at non-Oxbridge university terms now, they appear to be about 10 weeks each. So as a rough calculation, my course took up about 1,000 hours in the first year alone.

What does grate is that when I was studying the subject, some decades ago, wasn't even as much physics as there is now.

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JDX
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Re: I did 1,000 hours work at University

You're assuming he went to all his lectures.

It's on record that he found the degree material dull and hence didn't do very well - only in his interview did they realise he was doing badly because the work was so far beneath him.

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Re: I did 1,000 hours work at University

>My Physics BSc. course was roughly 30 hours of lectures and lab work a week. "Homework" on top of that.

I had several computer science projects I put hundreds of hours into. In my experience Computer Science majors put the second most hours in and the most sadly enough is Band majors (at least in US). Jokes about their "studies" aside they pretty much do have to practice 8 hours a day minimum on various instruments besides their "class" work.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I did 1,000 hours work at University

Not as much physics as there is now?

Would you mind expanding on that? Unless you are you referring to the 17th century, university physics programmes (up to the Masters at least) have been rather stable since the 1950's or 1960's...

Maybe one of the major changes has been a slight departure from "dirty" experimental work and a stronger focus on computer simulation methods.... but I haven't seen any major change the core curriculum....

Hell you could probably still use Feynman's classes (not only the first year introductory stuff) to train undergrads...

I mean you don't really get into bleeding edge (or crackpot as you prefer) material until post grad...

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Re: I did 1,000 hours work at University

>>Not as much physics as there is now?

>Would you mind expanding on that?

Well, for a kick-off, one extra-curricular lecture we had was from a colleague of some guy at Cambridge who has some interesting ideas (not even theories at that point) about event horizons an' stuff. There's been a lot of work on cosmology in the past 30+ (cripes, that's depressing) years: string theory, branes, shennanigans just after the BB . Not to mention the discovery of most of the quarks.

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JDX
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In my experience Computer Science majors put the second most hours in

Very much doubt that's true. Not where I went anyway - the only people who seemed to have full schedules were Chemistry and Engineering!

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You cant win em all

But having a fact based world is far from boring. The multiverse idea alone is interesting enough. And the dark matter issue. Both being the more publicly known research projects.

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Re: You cant win em all

I've long been happy to be proved wrong.

It's been horrifically infrequent. :/

But then, I was dealing both in technology capabilities and intelligence.

Of course, the former requires understanding in physics.

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Anonymous Coward

It makes sense

Almost 20 years ago I had the pleasure of speaking to a theoretical physicist and I happen to bring up unification theory; I believed in it, even then, but he was adamantly against it. I strongly believed that the universe would not make two structures so similar yet so distant in terms of functionality, while he strongly believed in the classic model.

It makes some sense that Hawkins did not believe in the Higgs, using similar reasoning to the physicist I spoke to. The classic model was a "known" to them and inherent in both their understand and, well, job security - their manipulation of these complex, yet known mathematical models, was their livelihood. A new model that included Higgs would upset many assumptions and calculations of how the universe worked and they, throughout their professional lifetime, had not compensated for this possibility.

Even though my understanding of high order physics is extremely limited, I am pleased that they found Higgs. Again, I believe in an 'elegant universe' and having discovered Higgs will allow better models that create such an unified understand of our cosmos.

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Trollface

Hawink trolling again.

Contentless remarks to make sure journalists cite him?

He predicted that a hypothesis known as M-Theory, which points to the existence of multiple universes, would soon be proven true

It does nothing of the sort. AFAIK, M-Theory is the hypothetical common ground of the disparate String theory formulation, formulated in a way that it subsumes them. Whether it has any link to actual physics or is only a mathematical object (if it even exists) is not certain at all and indeed is fraught with considerable doubt. The only thing we know is: the Standard Model rules.

"These multiple universes can arise naturally from physical law"

Disparate storylines of Battlestar Galactica might also arise naturally from physical law. That doesn't mean this is what happens. One would also like to see this law first and support it with some experimental evidence.

"Thus, our presence selects out from the vast array only those universes that are compatible with our existence. Although we are puny and insignificant on the scale of the Cosmos, this makes us, in a sense, lords of creation."

Lord of the Flies more like. The pseudo-science of the anthropic principle again? There is stuff out there that I can't observe. So it must exist!! Physicist, Please!

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Re: Hawink trolling again.

Indeed. The Anthropic Principle has somehow never satisfied me as proving anything of any use, even in evolutionary theory.

"How did we appear in this universe, in this form and in the way that we are?"

"We're here, therefore the universe must be this way."

Well, duh.

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Re: Hawink trolling again.

Yeah the key for the Anthropic will be to prove other universes exist and that time (whatever direction the arrow travels) is much older than 14 billion years.

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Happy

@ skelband - Re: Hawink trolling again.

I interpret that the other way around:

"How did we appear in this universe, in this form and in the way that we are?"

"The universe is as it is, therefore we're here to perceive it as it is. If it would be different, we would also be different, but still perceive this different universe as it is."

More Philosophy than Physics.

Or just waffle.

Also consider the 5th commandment of the Discordian Pentabarf.

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Re: Hawink trolling again.

It may be weak, but not as weak as the Trilobiteopic Principle

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Re: @ skelband - Hawink trolling again.

Circular arguments prove nothing for science.

Just test it in Excel, even MS acknowledges this as an error.

"What's the probability for life to evolve spontaneously in the universe, well we are here so it must be 1."

Try this in Excel, set A1 to = B1 then set B1 to = A1.

Unfortunately that is the argument we hear way too often, when one start to discuss the probability for life to appear spontaneously.

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I think Hawking is simply pointing out that it would have been much more interesting (for particle physicists, anyway) if the Higgs had not been found, which might have required revision of the standard model. As Asimov famously put it: The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka” but “That's funny...”

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You cannot expect to have X-Mas packages in your Hadron collider all the time.

This is the time to work a bit for once and use the toys you have been given already.

There is plenty to do:

Peter Woit: The “Unnatural” Standard Model

The Standard Model is a physical theory of a spectacularly successful sort. It is built on beautiful and deep mathematics, covers almost all known physical phenomena, and agrees precisely with the result of every single experiment ever done to test it. It leaves open a very small number of questions: why this specific combination of small symmetry groups and their representations? What determines the parameters of the model (18 if you ignore neutrino masses, 7 more if you include them)? What about gravity? Does it need to be extended to account for dark matter?

For several decades now, there has been a very active and heavily advertised field of “Beyond Standard Model” physics, the study of extensions of the standard model that remain consistent with experimental bounds. While BSM models have played a role in guiding experimentalists towards things to look for that are not already ruled out by what is known, they have never come anywhere near fulfilling the hope that they might provide some insight into the SM itself. They provide no explanation of the unexplained aspects of the Standard Model, instead adding a great deal of additional unexplained structure. Perhaps the simplest and most widely studied example is the minimal supersymmetric extension of the SM, which not only explains none of the 25 undetermined SM parameters, but adds more than 100 additional such parameters to the list.

Theorists have traditionally followed what has been described as “Albert Einstein’s dream that the laws of nature are sublimely beautiful, inevitable and self-contained”, and the SM is our closest approach so far to Einstein’s dream. If you shared this dream, the known BSM (Beyond Standard Model) models would never have much appealed to you, since they just added complexity and extra unexplained parameters. You also would not have been at all surprised by the strong negative results about such models that are one of the two major achievements so far of the LHC (the other is the Higgs discovery). If you’re a follower of Einstein’s dream, the obvious reaction to the LHC results so far would be to rejoice in the vindication of this dream, welcome the triumph of the simplicity of the SM, and hope that further study of the Higgs sector will somehow provide a hint of a better idea about where the SM parameters come from (almost all of them are Higgs couplings) ...

The “New Physics Complications” are the LHC only seeing pure SM behavior. If the LHC had seen a complicated SUSY spectrum, that would have been “natural”, but somehow seeing the simplest possibility has become a new “Complication”. It is a “complication”, but a sociological not physics one. SUSY theorists do have an answer for the complication of their ideas failing: the Multiverse did it.

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Tagline

"Steven Hawking: Avoiding Facts and Making Shit Up"

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Re: Tagline

Like most scientists the public has ever heard of.

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Coat

Re: Tagline

He could have been a politician with that tag

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Joke

Re: Tagline

OMG Steven Hawking has become a creationist!

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Anonymous Coward

A legend in my own mind

He predicted that a hypothesis known as M-Theory, which points to the existence of multiple universes, would soon be proven true.

And I predicted that a hypothesis known as S-Theory, which points to the existence of little blue people who live in mushrooms, would soon be proven true.

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Start- virtualization errorr - Stop

we're all living in someone else's fantasy.

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Anonymous Coward

doth protest too much....

Facts observed based on a point of view.

At present I accept all theories as being plausible until proven otherwise. Because you can declare that this is true, based on observation, does not allow for perturbation to form and change what believe we know.

Take two of something and no matter how you observe it - 1+1 = 2. The search for Higgs was interesting, as most particle theories have been, our maths state the the particle should be observed here..Oops no wait, add more energy... yes, that is what I meant. You see you carry the 1, increase power and viola we have a Higgs Boson....

Or in other words. you take 1,000 Audi A8s and 1,000 VW Phaetons accelerate them in a large ring to nearly the speed of light force them to crash together head on. Measure the debris field and see if you find any Bentley Continentals.... Nope..

Do it again but this time with 100,000 Audis and 100,000 VWs and the result mass record meets the model I have created for the Bentley Boson.

I anxiously await the discovery in physics (particle, quantum etc) over the next 10 years.

While that happens, I am going to re-read "Surely you must be Joking Mr. Feynman"

It would be really great if we built a Control Universe so we can compare our measurements to a baseline....

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Re: doth protest too much....

Actually it's more elegant than that. You get to know how much an Audi and a VW weigh if you collect all the pieces. That's all they ever did, but that's enough, because they only need to know how much it weighs.

The search for the Higgs is pure maths and hard physics. It seems proper science. It may be corrected, but only in the way we get better images of stars and planets, we get clearer, not "different" results.

Sadly, Hawkins is chasing his dreams, and not the observed facts. That he finds the Higgs boring, might suggest he does not have an interest in scientific fact (mathematical of physics), but in what he wishes to be true?

If I could give a greater mind some advice, it would be not to make the same mistake Einstein did. Give up on the progress because it risked putting his older theories, and possibly fame, into question (QM vs Relativity).

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Re: doth protest too much....

"Sadly, Hawkins is chasing his dreams, and not the observed facts. That he finds the Higgs boring, might suggest he does not have an interest in scientific fact (mathematical of physics), but in what he wishes to be true?"

Well this is true with every scientist, and every one of us here to. Those who downvote such post's as yours, have not yet come to realise that about themselves or about other.

People believe in what they want to believe in, theists have different views of god and use science to different grades. Some atheists even believe we were created by aliens, many atheists believe life will be found in the universe outside where we humans have been, as it evolves by itself. Why the mars probes sent there, are programed to search for evidence of life. Some scientist believe life came from Mars to Earth. As they realise that the Miller Urey test pretty much proves that amino acids could not form spontaneously on earth.

However if only all these would had looked at the science they would have known that they would never find traces of life on Mars. And that is what the reports form the probes now are confirming. Mars has never had life. And I could tell that just from the fact that Mars lack a magnetosphere. But no, scientist believe what they want to believe, despite the facts.

I would have rather programmed those probes to start terraforming mars, than to have them search for something that they can not find. But that could as well be just as futile quest. I'm not sure, but Mars gravity could very well be to low for making it to a second earth. However that is actually more difficult question to answer, if mars could be terraformed, than if it has had life on it. Mars has never had life. But it may have in the future.

Still that is what the scientist want to believe in an pursue.

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I don't understand...

...but then that was never likely. The particular bit that doesn't smell right though, is:

""These multiple universes can arise naturally from physical law," he said. "Each universe has many possible histories and many possible states at later times, that is, at times like the present, long after their creation.

"Most of these states will be quite unlike the universe we observe, and quite unsuitable for the existence of any form of life. Only a very few would allow creatures like us to exist.""

It is the use of the words "many" and "a few"... If a universe comes about for every possible state, how many are there at any given time, given the number of states of matter there are within a region (I'm not saying the whole of everything, because for all I know there may be some way of partitioning up regions so that they act independently...) and the range of values for the various physical constants which might be self selected by fine tuning. I'm guessing, given the factorial involved, that the fine tuning which would be required is pretty fine indeed to get back down to "a few" when we are making the filter criterion "creatures like us".

Why wouldn't that fine tuning get us back down to just one universe again? Why a few? It is like the mass - gravity - inertia equivalence ... I've never had the reason for it explained to me, but it is too much of a coincidence.

On another note Neal Stephenson's Anathem is a ripping yarn on this theme, but again, the numbers don't feel right.

Can someone who understands physics point me in the direction of a convincing exposition on this stuff?

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The "few" comes from 'tuning' for intelligent life

In the Standard Model + General Relativity, there are several constants and changing any one of them by a small amount gives you a universe where life is impossible.

But what if you change several of them, or all of them? There will be other sets of values where life is possible.

To use another example, your motor vehicle has lots of components which must all be well-tuned to make it run. Change any one of them - piston head radius - without changing any others - cylinder radius - and it stops working.

But if you change many of them in the right way, a working car becomes a working motorbike.

(Thanks to Jack Cohen for the analogy)

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Facepalm

Hawking hijacked event - how?

As an invited speaker at the Science Museum in a talk entitled "The Science Museum Presents Stephen Hawking", Professor Hawkin said this:

48:30: "I think the discovery of super symmetrical partners for the known particles would revolutionise our understanding of the Universe. I don't feel the same way about the Higgs Boson. Physics would be far more interesting if it had not been found. A few weeks ago, Peter Higgs and Francois Englert shared the Nobel Prize for their work on the Boson and they richly deserved it - congratulations to them both.

But the discovery of the new particle came at a personal cost. I had a bet with Gordon Kane of Michigan University that the Higgs Particle wouldn't be found. The Nobel Prize cost me one hundred dollars." link

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Re: Hawking hijacked event - how?

I'd still prefer the "keep looking, that thing is just the start!" over the "oh, you found something, stop that, look here instead!" attitude. :P

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"He predicted that a hypothesis known as M-Theory, which points to the existence of multiple universes, would soon be proven true."

I eagerly await a "Sliders" remote control, so I can get off this multiverse.

But with my luck, it'll need some weirdo nuclear batteries, and the box will say "batteries not included".

And the first firmware upgrade will brick it.

And the warranty won't cover firmware upgrades, nor the fact I Jim Robinsoned a "Mr Fusion" portable reactor to make it work.

Fine, I'll just stay here then.

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@ Johyn Tserkezis -

Surely a potato, a NE555 and a few passive bits aren't that hard to get?

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When "creating" (copying ?) articles it is generally good practice to quote our sources:

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/nov/12/stephen-hawking-physics-higgs-boson-particle

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The last heavy particle

The bigger issue is that to find an even heavier particle is impossible using ever bigger cyclotrons. Basically, we have now reached the end of this type of smash research, since the next bigger particle will require a cyclotron larger than the orbit of the earth. The upshot is that the scientists can now get down to more boring things, like figuring out how gravity works, since that hasn't improved any since the rotten apple splatted on Newton's head.

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Bronze badge

Re: The last heavy particle

Relativity was quite a big improvement on Newtonian mechanics as far as gravity is concerned.

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Coat

M-Theory - that wouldn't be Moorcock Theory by any chance?

Given the Eternal Champion and his interactions with many, many points in the Multiverse, you know....

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Anonymous Coward

Re. Slider remote

I have such a device here, the problem is I have to wait 29 years to use it.

:-)

Actually it is possible in theory, have some ideas about equal mass transfer across the bridge to overcome thermodynamics so as long as you can keep the bridge open during transfer it should work.

I have yet to publish because its 40 pages and physics journals don't like accepting papers from non PhDs.

Opening the bridge in the first place is actually quite simple, its called "ball lightning".. where do you think the energy comes from to maintain a fireball for several seconds?

To make it stable enough you'd need superconducting coils, realtime feedback via 3 axis magnetometer and a small supercomputer although the chips used in the PS3 "phat" might be able to cope if you used ten units in parallel with the Cores all enabled and kept cool with flowing water.

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Re: Re. Slider remote

"I have yet to publish because its 40 pages and physics journals don't like accepting papers from non PhDs."

You can always put it up on vixra.org in the meantime (a sort of "free access" alternative to arXiv).

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Happy

Memorable phrase

"boffinry bitchslap brouhaha"

Well done, sir(s) well done!

How long did the Reg hacks wait for a suitable situation to use this phrase?

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Stephen Hawking hates the Higgs Boson...

...and the Higgs Boson doesn't like him much either...

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Anonymous Coward

Multiple universes?

The universe is defined as everything which exists.

No such thing as multiple universes, just multiple cosmoses.

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Re: Multiple universes?

Nice touch.

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