CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—Nobel Prize-winning physicist Stephen Hawking stunned the international scientific community Monday with his latest breakthrough, a remarkably advanced cybernetic exoskeleton designed to replace his wheelchair.

Physicist Stephen Hawking strolls the Cambridge University campus in his new $55 million exoskeleton.

Hawking, paralyzed since early adulthood with the degenerative nerve disease ALS, unveiled the new creation at a press conference at Cambridge University.

"I am faster, stronger... better than before," Hawking told reporters via his suit's built-in voice synthesizer.

The hulking, hydraulically powered titanium-alloy exoskeleton is expected to assist the famed Brief History Of Time author tremendously in his ongoing theoretical physics research. "With the new exoskeleton, Stephen will be able to safely handle radioactive isotopes in the high-radiation area of the new supercollider particle accelerator. And his new robo-arms are capable of ripping open enemy tanks like they were nutshells," said Cambridge physics chair Sir Geoffrey Neville Shropshire-Kent.

The exoskeleton is also equipped with special infra-vision goggles, which will allow Hawking to observe sub-atomic phenomena firsthand.

"Wait a minute," said Hawking, testing out the high-tech infra-vision goggles for the first time. "I see now that the curvature of space-time follows previously unmeasured vectors that I will need to recalibrate in my equations. Also, there appears to be some sort of trouble on the moon."

Among the suit's other features: laser terminals; oxygen pressure-tanks for deep-sea and outer-space research; jet boots; and the most advanced crime-lab database in the world.

Constructed in Hawking's secret underground headquarters over the last two years by the famed scientist and his orphaned teenage sidekick and research assistant Hawk-Lad, the exoskeleton has already proven invaluable, not only in increasing the paralyzed Hawking's mobility, but in rounding up the notorious international gang of diamond thieves known as "The Fearsome Four."

The $55 million exoskeleton, which Hawking operates through slight movements of his left wrist, is powered by a pair of bio-morphogenetic servo-motors, and boasts the most advanced cyber-robotic technology anywhere, freeing Hawking of the wheelchair in which he has been confined for much of his adult life and giving him greater freedom of movement when engaged in battle.

"Beware, would-be evildoers," Hawking said. "My crimefighting powers are as infinite and unknowable as the very universe itself."

As for the future, Hawking said he plans to continue teaching and hopes to take a sabbatical in Italy with his wife and nurse. But primarily, he will focus on preparing for his greatest mission yet: a descent into a black hole in mid-1998.

"Only by penetrating the event horizon itself will I be able to observe the effects of singularity on neutrino decay and complete my research," Hawking said. "It should also prove invaluable in the construction of my new Anti-Gravity Gun. It may be our only hope for stopping Monstro, The Living Behemoth."

Hawking has already received the International Science League award for his invention, as well as a prestigious chair at the Helsinki Cybernetics Institute. He is also widely regarded as the favorite to win this year's Nobel Prize For Physics, and he recently received an honorary key to New York from Mayor Rudolph Giuliani after saving the city from the Galactons.