Professor Stephen Hawking yesterday admitted he was wrong to predict 17 years ago that, by now, scientists would have developed a unified theory explaining the structure of the universe - but then forecast that in 20 years' time they will.
Professor Hawking was speaking at the official launch in Cambridge of a new supercomputer able to model the earliest moments of the universe after its creation,15 billion years ago.
Speaking through his speech synthesizer, the physicist - who suffers from motor neurone disease, said he had hoped physicists and mathematicians would have developed a "grand unified theory" for the universe by 2000.
Such a unified theory - tying together and explaining the interaction of universal forces such as gravity and electromagnetism - has eluded generations of great minds, including Albert Einstein.
The new pounds 2m computer, called Cosmos, could play a key part in that by allowing theoreticians to model the growth of the universe from its earliest moments. "The calculations involved are so enormous they require a state- of-the-art machine," said Professor Hawking. The computer - contains 32 individual processors and 8,000 megabytes of main memory