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Back to the Future

Physicists gaze into the crystal ball


"Predictions are hard to make, especially about the future," said Nobel physicist Niels Bohr, many years ahead of Yogi Berra. But from October 7 to 9, more than 150 leading physicists gathered at the University of California at Santa Barbara to engage in just that daunting task. Commemorating the 25th anniversary of the school's Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, they looked back at the past quarter of a century of physics and ahead to what will happen in the next.

The speakers leaned heavily toward the theory side of the aisle, but an experimental device figured prominently in several talks: the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, the European center for particle physics near Geneva. It will start scientific operations around 2007. A few speakers looked forward to the LHC answering outstanding questions related to the Standard Model of particle physics and what comes beyond it.

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