Friday, July 18, 2008

Stephen Hawking considering move to Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Pretty cool stuff. I hear this was just a rumor, but wouldn't this be awesome?!?!?!

WATERLOO–Could the world's most famous physicist be headed for Waterloo?

A report out of Britain suggests Stephen Hawking is considering an invitation to come work at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.

The theoretical physicist already plans a visit to the city next year, following his public criticism of the British government's cuts to research funding.

But he's also being encouraged to move to Ontario by his University of Cambridge colleague Neil Turok, the mathematical physicist who will take over as Perimeter's executive director on Oct. 1. Perimeter confirmed last night that it has made a standing offer to Hawking.

"The door is certainly wide open," said John Matlock, Perimeter's director of external relations and outreach. "It would be absolutely wonderful to have him."

Turok is leaving Cambridge after failing to persuade university authorities, research councils and sponsors to spend $40 million to expand its Centre for Theoretical Cosmology, which he heads, into a Hawking Institute.

By comparison, Waterloo's Perimeter Institute has about $600 million in funding.

Turok wants Hawking to stick around after he comes to Waterloo as a visitor in 2009.

"He plans to visit me in Ontario next year for a month or so, and we would certainly welcome him coming for longer," Turok told Britain's Telegraph newspaper.

Sam Blackburn, Hawking's graduate assistant, told the paper: "I think Prof. Hawking is mulling it over but a move isn't imminent. He would not make plans to permanently move to a place he hasn't visited yet, but he is open to it."

Blackburn warned that Hawking was "obviously a man of few words, so the first we would probably know of it is when he packs his bags."

The addition of Hawking to Perimeter's staff of top physicists would be a major coup for the research institute, founded in 1999 by Mike Lazaridis, founder and co-CEO of Research In Motion, which makes the BlackBerry.

Hawking's name is widely known outside the world of physics and he has often spoken about the importance of letting average people access and understand his research.

Hawking, who has Lou Gehrig's disease, has appeared on television shows from Star Trek to The Simpsons. He's written many books, including the popular science bestseller A Brief History of Time.

"Like Einstein, he has crossed over into popular culture," Matlock said. "He's a celebrity."

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