"Infinitos"

On Friday, 22 April, a new science exhibition "Infinitos" illustrating man's current understanding of how the Universe works - from the tiniest structures of matter to the most far flung galaxies - will be inaugurated at the Museu de Electricidade in Lisbon by the President of Lisboa '94, Prof. Vitor Constancio, the Portuguese Science Minister, Prof. L. Valente de Oliveira, Prof. C. Llewellyn-Smith, Director General of CERN1 and Dr. P. Creola, President of ESO2 Council. This exhibition is part of a rich cultural program taking place at Lisbon during 1994 in the frame of "Lisboa 94 - European City of Culture" after which it will travel to major cities around Europe.

The frontiers of our knowledge push into inner space - the structure of the smallest components of matter - and into outer space - the dramatic phenomena of distant galaxies. Two of Europe's leading science organisations are playing a crucial role in this great human adventure. The European Laboratory for Particle Physics, CERN, operates the mighty accelerators and colliding beam machines to penetrate deep into matter and recreate the conditions which prevailed in the Universe a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang. The European Southern Observatory, ESO, operates the largest optical observatory in the world with a range of advanced optical telescopes searching the sky to study the evolution and content of our Universe.

The "Infinitos" exhibition uses modern exhibition techniques; sophisticated audio-visual presentations and interactive video programmes. Visitors enter through a gallery of portraits of the most celebrated scientists from the 16th to 20th centuries and an exhibition of art inspired by scientific research. After passing a cosmic ray detector showing the streams of particles which pour down constantly from outer space, visitors pass into a central area where they are confronted with the essential questions of astro- and particle physics. "What is the Universe made of? How was the Universe created? What is in the sky? What is Dark Matter? Where does the stuff in our bodies come from? Are we alone in the Universe?" A central theme of this display is "What we don't know" and in the second part of the exhibition visitors are shown the instruments and techniques used in today's big science research which will help to provide the answers. There are special displays on Europe's future research projects such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, which will bring protons into head-on collision at higher energies (14 TeV) than ever before to allow scientists to penetrate still further into the structure of matter and recreate the conditions prevailing in the Universe just 10-12 seconds after the "Big Bang" when the temperature was 1016 degrees. Another highlight is a large interactive model of ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT), the world's most ambitious telescope project, now under construction. The telescope's ability to see objects at the outer reaches of the Universe is clearly explained.

Special emphasis will be given to the contribution of Portuguese research institutes to the work of CERN and ESO, and particle physicists and astronomers from Portugal will be present at the exhibition to talk to visitors about their work.

This exhibition will remain open until 12 June 1994 and will be a major attraction to the many tourists visiting this year's European City of Culture.

Footnote(s)

1. CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, has its headquarters in Geneva. At present, its Member States are Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Israel, the Russian Federation, Turkey, Yugoslavia (status suspended after UN embargo, June 1992), the European Commission and Unesco have observer status.

2. ESO, the European Southern Observatory, is CERN's sister organisation in astronomy and astrophysics. Its Headquarters are in Garching near Munich, Germany. At present, the Member States are Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. Portugal has been associated with ESO since 1990.

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