Betting on the greatest unsolved problems in the universe is no longer the preserve of academic superstars such as Stephen Hawking. From Thursday anyone will be able to place bets on whether the biggest physics experiments in the world will come good before 2010.
For two weeks, British-based bookmaker Ladbrokes is opening a book on five separate discoveries: life on Titan, gravitational waves, the Higgs boson, cosmic ray origins and nuclear fusion.
Here is the full story. The origin of cosmic rays is the big problem most likely to be solved soon, and bettors are more optimistic about nuclear fusion than are physicists.
Our colleague, Robin Hanson, has long argued that gambling could save science by encouraging scientists to more honestly reveal their true estimates of the likelihood of various theories. Here is some refreshing evidence that he may be right:
“I’d be tempted to take a bet on the Higgs [particle] at 6-1,” says Brian Foster who heads the particle physics group at the University of Oxford in the UK. “I’ve been quite instrumental in betting the taxpayers’ money on us finding it, so I’d better put my money where my mouth is.”