Supercomputer to probe deepest questions of existence
May 30, 1997
Web posted at: 2:59 p.m. EDT (1859 GMT)
From Correspondent Siobhan Darrow
CAMBRIDGE, England (CNN) -- The heavens have captivated
mankind since the beginning of recorded time, but much
remains unknown about them. Now scientists may have found a
way to possibly unlock the universe's most profound
mysteries, even the very origins of life.
The cosmos will now be studied by a supercomputer known as
The machine is owned by a group of British cosmologists,
headed by Dr. Stephen Hawking, who is said to have one of the
greatest minds since Albert Einstein.
Hawking may be confined to a wheelchair, but his imagination
seems to know no bounds. And just as a computer makes it
possible for him to speak, so now it will make it possible
for him to test his theories.
"Hopefully, when we understand how the universe began, it
will give us a clue as to why it began the way it did, or
even why it began at all," he said.
|Dr. Stephen Hawking|
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"I think everyone wants to know where we came from ... "
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"My illness has made very little difference to my scientific work ... "
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Pictures from the Hubble spacecraft and other satellites have
given scientists glimpses of cosmic fossils, a look at the
universe at a fraction of its age. The supercomputer can use
those pictures to create models of the universe, and test
theories about its creation and structure.
Hawking says Cosmos can give results in days that would have
taken weeks or months.
Professor Neil Turok of Cambridge University claims that
within a decade Cosmos could provide a definitive theory of
the universe's structure. Now, he says, is cosmology's
golden age of discovery.
"If we can understand where the galaxy came from, than we can
understand where the stars came from, where planets came
from and we can form a basis for other sciences," he said.
Diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease more than 30 years ago,
Hawking is one of the longest survivors of that illness. In
many ways, he may be in a personal race against time. But if
he's worried about his longevity, he doesn't let on, saying
his illness has had little effect on his work.
"(Theoretical physics) is mainly pure thought, for which my
physical disability is no handicap," he said. "I may be
mentally disabled as well, but if so, I'm too far gone to
realize," he said.
And then he grinned.
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