The answer is no

There is a piece of folk law in physics that says:

“If a paper or talk has a title that is a question the answer is no.”

This concept also exists in journalism where it is known as Betteridge’s law of headlines

“Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”


In my experience the law holds much more often than not.  However, last week I made an attempt to flout it by giving a talk at Queen Mary where the title was “Can you detect dark energy in the laboratory?”, and I argued that the answer was “possibly” or even “probably, given enough time and the right experiment”.

A much more striking counter example to this rule is a paper by Einstein with the title “Ist die Trägheit eines Körpers von seinem Energieinhalt abhängig?” which can be translated as “Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content?”

Einstein showed that the answer to this question is “yes” and that gives us the famous relationship between mass and energy:

E=mc² .


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