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UK astrophysicist Sir Martin Rees wins 2011 Templeton Prize

(     (A supernova within the galaxy M100 that may contain the youngest known black hole in our cosmic neighborhood, in a composite image released to Reuters November 15, 2010/Chandra X-ray Observatory Center)

((A supernova within the galaxy M100 that may contain the youngest known black hole in our cosmic neighborhood, in a composite image released to Reuters November 15, 2010/Chandra X-ray Observatory Center)

British astrophysicist Sir Martin Rees, whose research delves deep into the mysteries of the cosmos, has won the 2011 Templeton Prize for career achievements affirming life’s spiritual dimension. The one million sterling ($1.6 million) award, the world’s largest to an individual, was announced on Wednesday in London. Rees, master of Trinity College at Cambridge University, is former head of the Royal Society and a life peer.

Announcing the award, the United States-based Templeton Foundation said Rees’s insights into the mysteries of the Big Bang and so-called black holes in space have “provoked vital questions that address mankind’s deepest hopes and fears… Lord Rees has widened the boundaries of understanding about the physical processes that define the cosmos, including speculations on the concept of ‘multiverses’ or infinite universes… The ‘big questions’ Lord Rees raises — such as ‘how large is physical reality?’ — are reshaping the philosophical and theological considerations that strike at the core of life.”

Rees, 68, says he has no religious beliefs but was brought up in the Church of England and values its culture and ethics. Theology cannot explain scientific mysteries, he told Reuters, but added: “I’m not allergic to religion or religious believers.” Previous winners of the prize, which seeks to promote better understanding between science and religion, include Catholic nun Mother Teresa, U.S. preacher Billy Graham and Russian novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn as well as many leading scientists. (Sir Martin Rees/Templeton Foundation)

(Sir Martin Rees/Templeton Foundation)

During his career, Rees has made important contributions to support the theories of the Big Bang, the explosive start to the universe 13.7 billion years ago, and of the existence of massive “black holes” in space in which even light can be trapped. Rees, who was awarded the honorary title of Astronomer Royal in 1995, has also been a leading theorist of the “multiverse.”

God did not create the universe, gravity did, says Stephen Hawking

hawkingGod did not create the universe and the “Big Bang” was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics, the eminent British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking argues in a new book.

In “The Grand Design,” co-authored with U.S. physicist Leonard Mlodinow, Hawking says a new series of theories made a creator of the universe redundant, according to the Times newspaper which published extracts on Thursday. (Photo: Stephen Hawking,  June 20, 2010/Sheryl Nadler)

“Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist,” Hawking writes. “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”

Scientists inch towards finding elusive “God particle” creating cosmos

LHC 1 (Photo: A core magnet in CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, March 22, 2007/Denis Balibouse)

Scientists working with particle accelerators in Europe and the United States said on Monday they may be closing in on the elusive Higgs Boson, the “God particle” believed crucial to forming the cosmos after the Big Bang.

Researchers from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) project near Geneva said in just three months of experiments they had already detected all the particles at the heart of our current understanding of physics, the Standard Model.

The International Conference on High Energy Physics in Paris heard that experiments were progressing faster than expected and entering a stage in which “new physics” would emerge. This could include long-awaited proof of the existence of the Higgs Boson and the detection of dark matter, believed to make up about a quarter of the universe alongside an observable 5 percent and 70 percent consisting of invisible dark energy.