On the horizon

A new collider under way

Installation of the world's largest particle physics collider began Monday with the lowering of a massive superconducting magnet into the circular tunnel housing the new research facility. The 17-mile tunnel, 150 to 500 feet under the Swiss-French border, is big enough for a subway train.

The aim of the project is to make the particles - in this case, protons - travel at nearly the speed of light until they collide, emitting a shower of even smaller particles that will reveal mysteries about the makeup of matter.

The 50-foot-long magnet is the first of 1,232 of the same size that will be placed in the tunnel to speed subatomic particles around the accelerator, said Renilde Vanden Broeck, spokeswoman for the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by the French initials CERN.

The $1.8 billion Large Hadron Collider will replace a less powerful model removed from the tunnel in 2000.

Case closed - after 3,350 years

A three-dimensional X-ray scan of King Tut's mummy found no evidence to support theories he was murdered but failed to determine how the young Egyptian pharaoh died.

Some members of the investigative team say he may have died from a leg wound, but others doubt this, saying that damage may have been inflicted later by archaeologists, according to the team's five-page report that was released on Tuesday.

Either way, the team's chairman, Zahi Hawass, says the case should now be closed and the tomb of the king who died in 1352 BC, at age 19, should not be disturbed again.

"We don't know how the king died, but we are now sure that it was not murder. Maybe he died on his own," Mr. Hawass said.

Some historians have speculated the ruler was murdered, based on his young age and the turbulent political and religious circumstances during that period of Egyptian history.

In January, some 17,000 images were taken of Tut's mummy during the 15-minute scan aimed at answering many of the mysteries that shrouded his life and death - including his royal lineage, his exact age at the time of his death, and the reason he died.

Humanity's first walking ancestor?

A team of US and Ethiopian scientists has discovered the fossilized remains of what they believe is humankind's first walking ancestor, a hominid that lived in the wooded grasslands of the Horn of Africa nearly 4 million years ago.

The bones were discovered in February at a new site called Mille, in the northeastern Afar region of Ethiopia, said Bruce Latimer, director of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in Ohio. The fossils include an ankle bone which, along with the tibia, proves the creature walked upright, said Dr. Latimer, coleader of the team that discovered the fossils.

The bones are the latest in a growing collection of early human fragments that help explain the evolutionary history of man. The specimen is only the fourth partial skeleton ever to be discovered that is older than 3 million years.

Undersea quakes intrigue scientists

Scientists searched Monday for signs of a volcanic eruption off the Pacific Northwest coast following a swarm of earthquakes that posed little risk of causing a tsunami.

A research ship monitoring the ocean floor about 170 miles west of Vancouver Island recorded more than 3,700 quakes between Feb. 27 and March 4 along the Juan de Fuca Ridge. The seismic activity has now slowed. None of the earthquakes was strong enough to be felt by coastal communities in Washington state or British Columbia, but they indicated magma was moving in the area, said Geological Survey of Canada seismologist Garry Rogers.

Scientists hope that observing a lava flow will teach them more about how tectonic plates are created.

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