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Boson named Boson on Bose’s home turf

Calcutta, Sept. 4: The boson was rechristened Boson in Bose’s hometown on Monday by the boss of CERN who also termed it “ironical” that the Bengali physicist was not awarded the Nobel, something he “fully deserved”.

“I always spell boson with a capital letter,” Rolf Dieter Heuer, director-general of the European Centre for Nuclear Research, Geneva, had told Metro on Sunday.

Delivering the inaugural address of Frontiers of Science 2012, a two-day conference in Calcutta, he was true to his word. “I was asked yesterday why the boson was not capped. In (Satyendra Nath) Bose’s own city today, we have capped the Boson. I, in fact, always cap the Boson. But today, we changed all our CERN slides to cap Bosons,” said Heuer.

The CERN chief did not stop at that, while dwelling on the influence of Bose in the discovery, on July 4 at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, of the “Higgs-like Boson” — the third class of particles.

“India is like a historic father of the Higgs-Boson project.... It is really ironical that he (Bose) was not given the award (Nobel). His contribution to science is immense and the absence of a Nobel doesn’t in any way undermine his genius or his contribution. However, we have done our bit by naming the particle after him,” said Heuer.

And, on Monday, capping it as well.

The Indian scientific community had expressed displeasure at boson being spelt in lower case while Higgs (after British physicist Peter Higgs) was spelt in the upper case. Heuer — who said he was “really very impressed seeing the immense talent pool that India has” — explained that the usual practice to cap Higgs was because it referred to one single particle, while boson, sorry Boson, referred to a class of particles.

Does the chief of CERN, the world’s leading research institute in particle physics, switching from boson to Boson make it official?

“We cannot have any regulations in science, any diktat that you have to cap this or that. But if an important person like the director-general of CERN has started capping the Boson, then automatically the whole world will follow,” said Milan Sanyal, the director of Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics (SINP) in Salt Lake.

Sanyal had promised to take up the matter with CERN following the July 4 announcement of the Higgs-like boson.

The first to take the cue from Heuer at the conference, being jointly hosted by the Centre for Natural Sciences and Philosophy and The Critical Issues Forum at Hyatt Regency, was Rudiger Voss, adviser for Non-member State Relations at the International Relations Office of CERN. Following his boss’s inaugural address, he apologised for not having capped the Boson in his presentation slides.

Sibaji Raha, the chief of the (JC) Bose Institute in Calcutta, however, chose to downplay the development and doubted that the world would overnight start capping the Boson. “I think this is a minor issue. The stature of Satyen Bose will not increase or diminish if Bosons are capped or not capped.”