Sunday, August 21, 2005

Put Your Money Where Your Theory Is

I have gone on and on about what science is and is not in the past few weeks. One thing I forgot to mention is that it can be a way of pulling in a little extra green. I don't mean getting paid to find the "right" answers, but I do mean to make side bets on the outcome of the contests between competing theories.

The tradition of these wagers is that it is the proposers of the theories that make the wagers, although just because I haven't heard about third party wagers doesn't mean they don't happen. The first time I heard about such a wager was when Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne bet against John Preskill about whether information became irrecoverable when it falls into a black hole. Certainly a bit more arcane than the next Super Bowl. The website doesn't list the prizes of the wager, but I recall something to the effect of bottles of Scotch.

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