Professor Stephen Hawking visits SNOLAB!

September 16, 2012 — Facility Updates

Dr. Nigel Smith, Director of SNOLAB and the SNOLAB Institute Board of Directors were honoured to welcome Dr. Stephen Hawking to visit SNOLAB this past weekend. 

Professor Hawking first visited the SNO experiment during the Grand Opening ceremony in April 1998. Many were on hand this weekend to welcome the noted physicist for his one day visit to tour the expanded surface and underground facilities at SNOLAB. 

Dr. Pekka Sinervo, Chair of the SNOLAB Institute Board of Directors expressed his delight at this weekends visit.  “It is our pleasure to host Professor Hawking at SNOLAB again. His work has inspired many of us to pursue the science studies that are underway at SNOLAB, and his visit is particularly timely given that the expanded laboratory is now officially open.”

Stephen Hawking has worked on the basic laws which govern the universe. With Roger Penrose he showed that Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity implied space and time would have a beginning in the Big Bang and an end in black holes. These results indicated that it was necessary to unify General Relativity with Quantum Theory, the other great Scientific development of the first half of the 20th Century. One consequence of such a unification that he discovered was that black holes should not be completely black, but rather should emit radiation (Hawking radiation) and eventually evaporate and disappear. Another theory is that the universe has no edge or boundary in imaginary time. This would imply that the way the universe began was completely determined by the laws of science.

Dr. Nigel Smith stated “It is a great delight to welcome Professor Hawking to the SNOLAB facility and show him the wonderful scientific research that is underway here. Since his first visit we have expanded the facility greatly, and introduced new projects studying particles and processes within the Universe. It is a pleasure to be able to explore with him the connections between the theoretical physics that Professor Hawking undertakes, and the experimental programme at SNOLAB.” 

Professor Hawking is just as famous in popular culture as he is as a physicist. This rise to pop-culture icon was fueled by the phenomenal popularity of Hawking’s popular-science book A Brief History of Time, which has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide since it was first released in 1988. This book was followed by a collection of essays titled Black Holes and Baby Universes in 1993.  The Universe in a Nutshell was published in 2001 and his most recent science work, A Briefer History of Time , co-written by Leonard Mlodinow, which updated his earlier works to make them accessible to a wider audience was published in 2005. In 2007 Hawking and his daughter, Lucy Hawking, published George’s Secret Key to the Universe, a children’s book focusing on science.

In recent years, Professor Hawking has made several appearances on television. In addition to appearing in science shows, he has also made several guest appearances in Futurama, had a cameo on Star Trek: The Next Generation playing poker with Data, Newton, and Einstein and multiple appearances on The Simpson’s. One of his memorable cameos on The Simpsons, involved Professor Hawking telling Homer, “Your theory of a doughnut-shaped universe is interesting… I may have to steal it.” Most recently, Big Bang Theory fans will recall Professor Hawking correcting Sheldon’s math on an episode that aired earlier this year. 

Vale was a co-sponsor of the event and Mr. Peter Poppinga, Chief Executive Officer of Vale Canada and Executive Director of Base Metals and Marketing and Information Technology for Vale was there to welcome Professor Hawking. 

“It is a pleasure for me to be here with my family. Welcome to Creighton Mine on behalf of Vale and a special welcome to Dr. Hawking. We all admire you and your work.

I hope that this process and this facility helps you to get a little closer to the so called Theory of Everything which you are working on. I understand that this facility in the past was more focused on neutrino research and now you are expanding your spectrum of study to include dark matter – all very exciting for us at Vale.” Mr. Poppinga added, “I would like to say thank you very much for coming and we are very proud to be here and to support you – you can count on our continued support for SNOLAB. Dr. Hawking, I hope you enjoy your visit.”

Professor Stephen Hawking is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge between 1979 and 2009. Subsequently, he became research director at the University’s Centre for Theoretical Cosmology.

There is hope that Professor Hawking’s visit to Sudbury and SNOLAB can provide inspiration and pride to the community. Sudbury should be proud of SNOLAB, an International Particle Physics Lab that can attract such high-profile scientists. SNOLAB also hopes this visit serves as an inspiration to everyone, scientists and non-scientists as evidence of the great things we can accomplish even when faced with insurmountable obstacles. 

SNOLAB backgrounder

The SNOLAB International Underground Science Facility is situated 2 km (6800 ft) underground in Vale’s Creighton Mine near Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. The facility was created by an expansion of the underground research areas next to the highly successful Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) experiment. The entire laboratory is operated as an ultra-clean space to limit local radioactivity. With greater depth than any other international laboratory it has the lowest background from cosmic rays providing an ideal location for measurements of rare processes that would be otherwise unobservable. Measurements are planned by a number of international collaborations that will seek Dark Matter particles left from the Big Bang and search for a rare radioactive process called neutrino-less double beta decay that could help explain the development of matter in the early Universe. Other experiments will measure neutrinos from the Sun, the Earth, watch for Supernovae in our galaxy and measure local seismic activity. The facility is operated by the SNOLAB Institute with Canadian scientific participants from University of Alberta, Carleton University, Laurentian University, Queen’s University and University of Montreal 

For more information on SNOLAB contact: 

Ms. Samantha Kuula
Communications Officer
Phone: (705) 692-7000 ext. 2222