Paddy Power pays out on Obama victory

The bookmaker is pretty certain of the outcome.

Paddy Power, the Irish bookmaker, has paid out on all bets that Barack Obama will win the US presidental election a day early, claiming that Obama is "a nailed-on certainty" to win a second term.

The move is part publicity stunt, part business move, and part a betting company taking a bet on the election – to the stake of $650,000, according to a press release from Paddy Power.

The publicity stunt aspect is pretty obvious – you're reading this story, after all – but the business move is slightly more interesting. Paddy Power, as with any betting company which pays out early, hopes punters will re-invest their winnings in a more uncertain bet on the election. The bookmaker is pushing the idea that the margin of victory is a fun bet to take part in, and it's certainly one where you could win more money: the odds of an Obama victory bottomed out at just 2/9, while if you follow Jim Cramer's prediction of a gigantic Obama victory, you could get 25/1.

And as for the bet on the election – well, Paddy Power will be pretty annoyed if they've called it wrong and have to pay out on Romney as well.

Paddy Power in 2011, when the company changed its name to celebrate Obama's visit to Ireland. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

GETTY
Show Hide image

Stephen Hawking's enthusiasm for colonising space makes him almost as bad as Trump

The physicist's inistence on mankind's expansion risks making him a handmaiden of inequality.

“Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves,” Stephen Hawking has warned. And he’s not just talking about surviving the UK's recent run of record breaking heat. If humanity doesn’t start sending people to Mars soon, then in a few hundred years he says we can all expect to be kaput; there just isn’t enough space for us all.

The theoretical physicist gave his address to the glittering Starmus Festival of science and arts in Norway. According to the BBC, he argued that climate change and the depletion of natural resources help make space travel essential. With this in mind, he would like to see a mission to Mars by 2025 and a new lunar base within 30 years.

He even took a swipe at Donald Trump: “I am not denying the importance of fighting climate change and global warming, unlike Donald Trump, who may just have taken the most serious, and wrong, decision on climate change this world has seen.”

Yet there are striking similarities between Hawking's statement and the President's bombast. For one thing there was the context in which it was made - an address to a festival dripping with conspicuous consumption, where 18 carat gold OMEGA watches were dished out as prizes.

More importantly there's the inescapable reality that space colonisation is an inherently elitist affair: under Trump you may be able to pay your way out of earthly catastrophe, while for Elon Musk, brawn could be a deciding advantage, given he wants his early settlers on Mars to be able to dredge up buried ice.

Whichever way you divide it up, it is unlikely that everyone will be able to RightMove their way to a less crowded galaxy. Hell, most people can’t even make it to Starmus itself (€800  for a full price ticket), where the line-up of speakers is overwhelmingly white and male.

So while this obsession with space travel has a certain nobility, it also risks elevating earthly inequalities to an interplanetary scale.

And although Hawking is right to call out Trump on climate change, the concern that space travel diverts money from saving earth's ecosystems still stands. 

In a context where the American government is upping NASA’s budget for manned space flights at the same time as it cuts funds for critical work observing the changes on earth, it is imperative that the wider science community stands up against this worrying trend.

Hawking's enthusiasm for colonising the solar system risks playing into the hands of the those who share the President destructive views on the climate, at the expense of the planet underneath us.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

0800 7318496