Calcutta, Oct. 9: A team of scientists at the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics that had helped validate Peter Higgs and Francois Englert’s Higgs boson theory quietly celebrated the duo’s Nobel triumph yesterday, saying that justice had been done after 50 years.
“We left whatever we were doing and got together at 3pm IST to watch the announcement live (from Stockholm) but it was delayed by an hour,” physicist Sunanda Banerjee said from his third-floor office at the Saha institute in Salt Lake.
Banerjee and his colleagues Manoj Saran, Subir Sarkar, Suchandra Datta and Satyaki Bhattacharya did not celebrate the moment with champagne or cake like their counterparts at CERN or the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research did.
“Oh! We just sat together to watch it and then dispersed,” Banerjee said. “We were all expecting this. There is no element of surprise here. Justice has been done. It is one of the most important predictions in particle physics and it had to be proved by experiment. It was written 50 years ago. We are so glad that the prize went to the fathers of the Higgs boson, Higgs and Englert, and we really wanted to see that it was given.”
The physicist, conferred the Sherar Shera title at this year’s ABP Ananda Shera Bangali Awards, leads the Saha institute team in CERN’s Compact Muon Solenoid experiment.
He is not displeased, as the elegantly modest Englert might have said, that CERN has found mention in the Nobel citation. “It’s a huge inspiration for the whole team, of course. All this media hype about the July 4, 2012, announcement (about the Higgs boson being found) and then yesterday’s Nobel have managed to bring a lot of focus on our work. People are now more aware of this subject,” Banerjee said.
Briton Higgs doesn’t use a mobile phone or a computer but Banerjee is looking forward to hearing from the man himself. “It would have been nice to have Higgs around. Englert was superbly modest,” he said.
On the debate about whether three other physicists — Tom Kibble, Carl Richard Hagen and Gerald Guralnik — should have been deemed more deserving of the Nobel for their papers on the existence of the Higgs boson, Banerjee said: “I did my PhD in Imperial College when Kibble was there. We learnt the Standard Model as the Higgs-Kibble mechanism. The Brits were pushing for Kibble as the third recipient but it was clearly the sequence of publication that decided the Nobel.”
So would Higgs and Englert’s triumph turn the trickle of funds for research into a flood?
“Wish I could say that,” Banerjee said. “We here are facing a severe resource crunch. So is the US, where people are losing jobs. Surely finding the Higgs has not helped much in so far as research funds go. The bureaucrats are hard to convince.”