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Hawking tours CERN's particle collider

UK scientist Stephen Hawking has said that the launch in 2007 of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) - the world's largest and most powerful particle accelerator - will present an exciting time for physics and bring about several new and important discoveries.

The professor's c...

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UK scientist Stephen Hawking has said that the launch in 2007 of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) - the world's largest and most powerful particle accelerator - will present an exciting time for physics and bring about several new and important discoveries.

The professor's comments came during a week long visit from 24 September to 1 October to the LHC facilities at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland. There he descended 100 metres underground to tour the collider's 27 km circumference tunnel in which scientists will attempt to reproduce the first instances of the Big Bang, by colliding particles at a total energy of 14 tera-electronvolts.

The facility is expected to provide physicists with an unrivalled high-tech tool to study fundamental physics. It also expected to enable the EU to maintain its leading role in fundamental research in the field of particle physics.

'You have an exciting two years ahead of you,' Professor Hawking told Robert Aymar, the Director General of CERN. When asked what he considered to be the most important discoveries that the new experiments could lead to, Professor Hawking pointed to superpartners - particles which are thought to make up the mysterious dark matter of the universe, the Higgs boson - the last undiscovered particle predicted to exist by the standard model of particle physics, and black holes as likely candidates.

Professor Hawking also gave two lectures at CERN: a specialist seminar on 'The semi-classical birth of the universe', and a colloquium entitled 'The origin of the universe'.

Although the raison d'être of the LHC is essentially scientific, it is also expected to have important knock-on benefits for European high-tech industries. With the largest set of interconnected accelerators in the world, CERN is seen to be contributing to the 'knowledge society' by providing a competitive working environment for direct research and the training of hundreds of top scientists and engineers each year. Its computer grid alone, which receives substantial support from the EU-funded project Enabling Grids for E-sciencE (EGEE), includes more than 100 sites in 31 countries.

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