A Bet Concerning Neutrinos (Part 2)

We negotiated it, and now we’ve agreed:

This bet concerns whether neutrinos can go faster than light. John Baez bets they cannot. For the sake of the environment and out of scientific curiosity, Frederik De Roo bets that they can.

At any time before October 2021, either John or Frederik can claim they have won this bet. When that happens, they will try to agree whether it’s true beyond a reasonable doubt, false beyond a reasonable doubt, or uncertain that neutrinos can (under some conditions) go faster than light. If they cannot agree, the situation counts as uncertain.

If they decide it’s true, John is only allowed to take one round-trip airplane trip during one of the next 5 years. John is allowed to choose which year this is. He can make his choice at any time (before 4 years have passed).

If they decide it’s false, Frederik has to produce 10 decent Azimuth Library articles during one of the next 5 years—where ‘decent’ means ‘deserving of three thumbs up emoticons on the Azimuth Forum’. He is allowed to choose which year this is. He can make his choice at any time (before 4 years have passed).

If they decide it’s uncertain, they can renegotiate the bet (or just decide not to continue it).

10 Responses to A Bet Concerning Neutrinos (Part 2)

  1. Stuart says:

    It might be worth adding a note to the text to say “Yes, we know the penalty to Frederik is much lighter than the one to John; this reflects our respective levels of confidence etc. etc.” Otherwise you may be inundated with helpful people helpfully pointing this out!

    • John Baez says:

      Hasn’t happened yet – most people seem to know faster-than-light neutrinos are a long shot.

      But now they can read your comment!

    • Frederik De Roo says:

      “Lighter”? It’s much more work to write an article than to avoid taking a plane. For the latter I don’t have to do anything.

      • Frederik De Roo says:

        Besides, John will probably write a lot of articles during that year, and I will probably hardly (or not) fly, so our bet still appears even (though unspoken), and I have the odds against me.

  2. John Baez says:

    Over on Google+, Stewart Brand writes:

    Go going bettors.

    Would you like to formalize it even more publicly at Long Bets? See link:


    Since Stewart Brand is a leading thinking about the environment and the future, and Long Bets is a great forum for making bets about the future and thus accumulating well-informed opinions about it, I think we should consider doing this. What do you say, Frederik? I don’t want it to affect the terms of the bet or the friendly spirit in which our bet was made.

    • John Baez says:

      Hmm, unfortunately rules at Long Bets don’t allow for our particular bet.

      • The stakes in Long Bets involve money — a minimum of $200.

      • The money is immediately paid to the Long Now Foundation, where it’s tax-deductible.

      • When the bet is settled, the winner’s money goes to a charity of their choice.

      • Long Bets odds are always even,

      (“Odds are always even” sounds funny to me. In case this idiomatic phrase is incomprehensible to the non-native English speakers here, it means that each party wins the same amount of money, if they win. This seems extremely restrictive, since it prevents people from betting on low-probability events! I also think it limits the ability of Long Bets to accumulate accurate information about future events.)

  3. The stakes come dangerously close to containing an instance of the Surprise Examination Paradox (which, of course, was the conceptual basis behind the recent claimed proof of inconsistency of PA, discussed recently on John’s other blog).

    We need only further stipulate that, if he loses, John must be *surprised* by Frederik’s choice of flight year. The usual surprise examination reasoning then applies.

    • John Baez says:

      I won’t be surprised by Frederik’s choice of flight year. But I will be surprised if he wins the bet! Should that have been part of the conditions of the bet—that I only lose if I’m surprised?

  4. I made a bet with Frederik De Roo saying that no, neutrinos do not go faster than […]

  5. […] For simplicity, we could assume the same criteria for determining the winner as your existing bet. […]

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