4 – 1 Odds That God Exists

Q: What does God, Russell Brand and the Higgs boson all have in common?
A: Unsurprisingly, not a lot.

'Eye of God' (a.k.a. the Helix Nebula), Russell Brand (with Kristin Bell on the set of the excellent movie, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and my Higgs boson (from the Particle Zoo)
The candidates (from left to right): 'Eye of God' (a.k.a. the Helix Nebula), Russell Brand (with Kristin Bell on the set of the excellent movie, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and my Higgs boson (from the Particle Zoo)

OK, so it’s been a “stupid news day” today. First I find out that 52% of voters in the great state of California believe that same-sex marriage is a bad thing, voting in the draconian Proposition 8. And then I read that a UK betting company has taken the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) search for the “God particle” literally.

So, that’s why The Eye of God (Helix Nebula as taken by Hubble) and my Higgs particle plushie are in the picture above… but where does Russell Brand and Kristin Bell come into it? Actually, there’s no reason for Bell to be in the picture at all (apart from being the first ever bikini-wearing actress to grace pages of Astroengine – don’t get used to it!), but it appears that Brand has some “god-like” qualities himself, coming a close second to old Higgsy…

Hold on to your muon detectors, this is about to get silly

I always cringe when the term “God particle” is used to describe the theoretical Higgs particle. The term was actually first used in the 1993 book called The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon M. Lederman and science writer Dick Teresi. It is a light-hearted publication, filled with jokes and anecdotes, and Lederman wanted to call the Higgs boson “the goddamn particle,” but his editor preferred “God particle.” And so the name stuck.

Even the particle’s namesake Peter Higgs is embarrassed by how the “God particle” has been embraced by some portions of the media and popular science. “I find it embarrassing because, though I’m not a believer myself, I think it is the kind of misuse of terminology which I think might offend some people,” he said in a recent interview with the Guardian.

I too would argue that the “God” designation is woefully inaccurate. Science and religion are an age-old mismatch — like trying to mix oil with water. To indicate that the LHC, that was built to search for this elusive boson, is somehow implicit in the religious search for God, is ridiculous.

To physicists, the search for the Higgs particle has nothing to do with religion, it is a long road toward understanding the quanta that form the inner engine of our Universe. If it is discovered (and personally, I think it will), it will shore-up an entire area of science, catapulting us into a new era of understanding. Beyond the Higgs, we have supersymmetry to tackle and superstrings to untangle; let’s face it, the LHC may churn up something we cannot interpret, giving us a glimpse into a Universe we could never have comprehended before this era of high-energy accelerator technology.

God has nothing to do with it. The Higgs boson will hopefully be another building block we can add to our growing number of subatomic particles.

On reading a Telegraph article today, I was therefore part-amused and part-bemused to see a British betting company giving odds on whether “God” will be discovered by next year. Before the LHC was completed, the gambling company Paddy Power put 20-1 odds against the January 2009 deadline of finding God.

R i g h t. . .

Fair enough. After all, (possibly) billions of people throughout history have been trying to find God, why not pander to the gambling nature of the religious (and the curious non-religious types)?

So what was Paddy Power basing their odds on? The odds were being driven by the LHC and its quest to find the “God particle” because when the LHC broke down last month, they lengthened the odds to 33-1. After all, if you have a 27 km-long “God-searching ring” and it breaks, surely the odds would increase. Right?

But as I mentioned above, the LHC has SOD ALL to do with looking for an omnipresent being who created the Universe! Why in the hell would the LHC influence the search for God at all?

More motivating than the LHC - say that God doesn't exist (Telegraph)
More motivating than the LHC - say that God doesn't exist (Telegraph)

But then I realize that we are being strung along. Since an atheist campaign in London, placing adverts on buses saying, “there’s probably no God,” there has been a surge of interest in trying to find God. Forgetting the LHC, people started trying to prove those pesky atheists wrong, and put money on 4-1 odds that God will show himself by 2009!

So it turns out that it is not the evil betting industry that is driving the misconception that the LHC is looking for God, it is the public who is putting their money where their belief is (isn’t that how religion works?), driving down the odds at Paddy Power. £5000 has so far been wagered in favour of discovering God (without the help of the LHC), and Paddy Power stands to lose £50,000 if an omnipresent being, answering to the name of “God”, is discovered at the end of the year. (There’s only one guy giggling all the way to the bank.)

What have we learnt from this little story? Searching for God with the LHC isn’t as effective as an atheist poster campaign.

And what about Russell Brand? On the Paddy Power betting pages, there is another contender for the “God” thrown. Russell Brand has 500-1 odds of “being God” himself. It’s a true (yet sad) story…

The odds are against Russell (Paddy Power website)
The odds are against Russell (Paddy Power website)

Original source: The Telegraph

7 thoughts on “4 – 1 Odds That God Exists”

  1. You can have 10,000/1 with me about conclusive proof of the existence of God ever being forthcoming. graham sharpe (william hill media relations director)

  2. @gsharpe:-
    Is Paddy Power joking about these odds? Surely it makes a mockery of the betting system when such low odds are put on a nigh-on impossible event? Obviously people are falling for it, throwing £5000 down the drain. I notice William Hill is far more careful about publicising bad gambling practices. (Oh, and I’ll take your 10,000-1. I’ll put £1 on it and go out and search for the guy myself!)


    Cheers, Ian

  3. Ian, the fabulously geeky nerd! Of course you are a geek. Once a geek, always a geek. Cannot be escaped.

    Fab Geek = Hollywood scientist. Hell, anyone living in LA AND writes about science is per definition a fab geek. You go right ahead and adopt, my friend. 🙂

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