Stephen Hawking is generally regarded as the smartest man in the universe.
But dude sucks at gambling.
You’d think a mathlete of Hawking’s remarkable standing would have a better grasp of oddsmaking, but his track record in betting is on par with fellow Simpsons character Krusty the Clown.
Speaking this week at Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium, the famed cosmologist publicly conceded defeat in his bet that the Higgs boson — the infamous God Particle — would never be discovered.
“It looks like I’ve lost another bet,” Hawking joked in his famous synthesized robotic monotone.
Years ago, Hawking famously placed a bet against University of Michigan physicist Gordon Kane, insisting that the Higgs Boson would not be be discovered. The prize: $100.
It was only the most recent in a string of betting losses for Hawking, whose debilitating paralysis doesn’t seem to have diminished his love of mischievous gambling.
Here’s a look at some of his other losses:
The Penthouse Magazine Black Hole
In 1975, Hawking bet his friend and colleague Kip Thorne that a dark star known as Cygnus X-1 would turn out not to be a black hole. If Hawking were correct, he would win a subscription to Penthouse magazine. If he were wrong, and Cygnus X-1 indeed turned out to be a black hole, he would give Thorne a subscription to the somewhat less racy Private Eye magazine. Thorne won. The good news, however, was that the existence of the black hole validated much of Hawking’s research, so he kind of hedged his bet.
The Encyclopedia Bet
After losing the 1975 bet to Thorne, Hawking seems to have taken an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach. He teamed up with Thorne to make a wager with John Preskill. The bet involved an apparent contradiction between black holes, quantum physics and the nature of information. The bet: an encyclopedia of the winner’s choosing. Hawking conceded the bet and eventually bought Preskill a copy of The Baseball Encyclopedia.
The Unresolved Bet (That He’s Unlikely to Win)
Hawking currently has a pending wager with Neil Turok, director of Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. Hawking’s bet is that primordial gravitational waves will be detected, resulting in the confirmation of inflationary big-bang theory. Recent discoveries of “cosmic smearing” (not as gross as it sounds) seem to indicate that Hawking is likely to take another loss on this one.
So does the smartest man in the universe ever win a bet? Yes, once: