Thursday, August 5, 2010

Scientists betting on reality. No, actually betting real money on it.

If I was writing a screenplay for the Sloan Screenplay Competition sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for the Public Understanding of Science (which I would be if I was a student in the dramatic writing program, and hoping to win the $20,000 prize which goes to a CMU student each year)... I might well discover a plot in this story from the Economist in which bookies actually make book on scientific discoveries and disasters. Think you know many polar bears will die this year? It's one way to make money from climate change. There's a range of bets on what the Large Hadron Collider will detect. And then there's the story that begins this way:

The story was different, though, for the fifth wager—that gravitational waves would be detected. News that the bookmaker was offering 500/1 against this happening spread rapidly among the small group of physicists and astronomers searching for such waves.