Science: The Ultimate Quest

Armed with giant machines and grand ambitions, physicists spend billions in the race to discover the building blocks of matter

The elevator doors opened into a cavernous room in an underground tunnel outside Geneva. Out came the eminent British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, in a wheelchair as always. He was there to behold a wondrous sight. Before him loomed a giant device called a particle detector, a component of an incredible machine whose job is to accelerate tiny fragments of matter to nearly the speed of light, then smash them together with a fury far greater than any natural collision on earth.

Paralyzed by a degenerative nerve disease, Hawking is one of the world's most accomplished physicists, renowned for his breakthroughs in...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!