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CERN boss salutes Bose

- Head of institute behind Higgs boson lauds role of Indians

“I always spell boson with a capital letter.”

That was the boss of CERN’s salute to Satyendra Nath Bose in the fabled physicist’s hometown on Sunday.

Rolf Dieter Heuer, the director-general of the European Centre for Nuclear Research, Geneva, is in town for a two-day conference — Frontiers of Science 2012, on September 3-4 at Hyatt Regency, co-hosted by the Bikash Sinha-led Centre for Natural Sciences and Philosophy and The Critical Issues Forum.

Terming the debate of ‘H’iggs versus ‘b’oson — Bose not being given his due — as “somewhat artificial”, the German scientist with silver hair and French cut beard told Metro: “I think the appreciation of the contribution by Bose is very high in particle physics because we have a whole class of particles which we call bosons. Now there are three classes of particles — the meta particles called Fermions, named after Fermi, the bosons named after Bose, and the Higgs-like boson. So everybody knows what the boson is in physics.... And I always spell boson with a capital letter.”

The Higgs boson is the third class of particles that have metamorphosed into a different particle but it is also called the boson, reminded Heuer. “So the appreciation is very high and it goes far beyond particle physics — there is Bose Einstein statistics, Bose Einstein Condensate for example. And he deserved every bit of the appreciation, no doubt.”

Heuer was also appreciative of the role of the Indian scientists, from both the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics (SINP) and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), in the findings on July 4 at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. “I think there are three main contributions by Indian scientists to the discovery of the Higgs-like boson. First, they helped to build a part of the detector, then to have a computing centre inside the grid computing — absolutely vital to analyse the data very quickly — and finally the analysis of the data itself.”

On his first visit to India, Heuer underlined India’s links with CERN and the way forward. “We have very good relations with Indian scientists like Bikash (Sinha). We would like to foster these relations and improve them. In fact, we want to go far beyond the scientists.... We would also like to get into close contact with engineers, with private enterprises and foster our relations with India as a nation, which has a lot of potential.... I think this is why I took the effort to come here for two days.”

The largest number of applications for summer internships at CERN come from India, said the director-general. “But we cannot accommodate all of them because India is not a CERN member and so there are limitations.” Urging India to become an associate member of CERN, for which the country will have to shell out Rs 50 crore annually, Heuer said: “The main advantage is in the engineering sector, as private enterprise can come to CERN and get projects, orders and companies could go for collaborative R&D. And not just scientists but engineers and even administrators can apply for a staff position at CERN if you become an associate member.” A staff appointment at CERN is for five years and a fellowship is for two years.

When Metro informed him about SINP’s effort to build a mega science project in Calcutta, the world’s fifth 6GeV synchrotron, Heuer said: “I have no doubt you can do that because you have good people here. I think where you might lack is in experience in the accelerator sector. Such a big project will have to be built with international collaboration and cooperation and I think CERN is certainly prepared to give advice like we do for the synchrotron in Jordon.”

But before that, someone will have to advise the Mamata Banerjee government to allot land for the mega project that would put Calcutta on the world scientific map.


Picture by Bishwarup Dutta

I think the appreciation of the contribution by Bose is very high and he deserved every bit of the appreciation, no doubt. We have a whole class of particles we call bosons…. And I always spell boson with a capital letter

Rolf Dieter Heuer, director-general of the European Centre for Nuclear Research, Geneva