Stephen Hawking physics would be more interesting if Higgs boson hadn't been found
Physics would have been "far more interesting" if scientists had been unable to find the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider in Cern, according to Stephen Hawking.
The cosmologist was speaking at an event to mark the launch of a new exhibit about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the Science Museum in London and discussing the unanswered questions at the edges of modern physics as part of a history of his own work in the field.
Though the Higgs boson was predicted by theory in the early 1960s, not everyone believed it would be found. If it had not been, physicists would have had to go back to the drawing board and rethink many of their fundamental ideas about the nature of particles and forces – an exciting prospect for some scientists.
"Physics would be far more interesting if it had not been found," said Hawking. "A few weeks ago, Peter Higgs and François 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 $100."
Hawking hoped the LHC would now move on from the Higgs boson to look for more evidence of fundamental theories that explain the nature of the universe and, in particular, he hoped it would find the first evidence for M-theory, which many believe is the best candidate physicists have to unify the four fundamental forces of nature.
M-theory unites gravity (which rules at the largest scales of the universe) with quantum mechanics (which controls the behaviour of atoms and smaller particles). As yet there has been no incontrovertible experimental evidence to show that M-theory is correct.
"There is still hope that we see the first evidence for M-theory at the LHC particle accelerator in Geneva," said Hawking. "From an M-theory perspective, the collider only probes low energies, but we might be lucky and see a weaker signal of fundamental theory, such as supersymmetry.
"I think the discovery of supersymmetric partners for the known particles would revolutionise our understanding of the universe."
Supersymmetry is the concept that known particles – such as electrons, quarks and photons – have a heavier and as-yet-undetected "superpartner". The superpartners of quarks and electrons, for example, are called squarks and selectrons; the superpartners of the Higgs, and of force carriers such as the photon, are the higgsino and photino. Experimental evidence for the idea has, however, been elusive.
In recalling the bet he made with Kane about the Higgs boson, Hawking admitted enjoying gambling.
"Throughout my life, I have had a gambling problem," he said. "When I was 12, one of my friends bet another friend a bag of sweets that I would never come to anything.
"I don't know if this bet was ever settled, and if so, which way it was decided.
"I had six or seven close friends, and we used to have long discussions and arguments about everything, from radio-controlled models to religion. One of the things we talked about was the origin of the [url=http://pcb.hqew.net/tags.php?/PCB+circuit+board/]circuit board[/url] universe, and whether it required a God to create it and set it going."


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