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Great wagers in physics, CERN’s pine marten gets stuffed, Doomsday Clock moves closer to midnight

Flat out: Wallace saw him coming (Courtesy: PI)

Flat out: Wallace saw him coming. (Courtesy: PI)

By Hamish Johnston

I bet you can’t resist clicking on “Great wagers in physics history” – which has been compiled by Colin Hunter at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Canada. A surprising number involve Stephen Hawking, whose record on winning is quite abysmal according to Hunter. Hawking’s fellow Cantabrigian Isaac Newton also enjoyed a flutter and accepted Christopher Wren’s offer of 40 shillings to anyone who could – in two months – derive a force law that explained Keplers laws of planetary motion. Newton succeeded, but ran overtime so he didn’t collect the cash. In the image above you can read about another wager involving a “flat-Earth theorist”.

Ever wonder what happened to that unfortunate pine marten that shut down the Large Hadron Collider? The poor beast was electrocuted in a substation at CERN, shutting down the giant accelerator. Now, it will soon be stuffed and on view at the Rotterdam Natural History Museum – the latest addition to a display of ill-fated human-animal interactions. You can read all about it in the Guardian: “Totally stuffed: CERN’s electrocuted weasel to go on display”.

On an even scarier note the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has moved its famous Doomsday Clock 30 s closer to midnight. Described as a “globally recognized arbiter of the planet’s health and safety,” the clock is now set at 11:57:30. This is the closest humanity has been to global destruction since 1959. The closer the clock is to midnight, the more likely it is that nuclear war or climate change will lead to catastrophe – at least according to a panel of experts assembled by the Bulletin. According to a statement from the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board, the 30 s change reflects Donald Trump’s “disturbing comments about the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons and expressed disbelief in the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change”.

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