The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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In search of state of matter

Prof Bikash Sinha, director, Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre (VECC) and Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics (SINP), has bagged the prestigious R.D. Birla Award of the Indian Physics Association this year, along with Prof P. K. Kaw, director, Institute of Plasma Research, Ahmedabad.

The award, which comprises a citation and “a token sum”, is given annually by the body of Indian physicists, and earlier recipients include luminaries like the late Abdus Salam and Subramanyan Chandrashekhar, both Nobel laureates, Prof J.V. Narlikar, Dr Raja Ramanna, Dr P.K. Iyengar and Prof Ashok Sen.

Bikash Sinha has been chosen this year for the novel techniques he had earlier suggested to detect the so-called quark-gluon plasma (QGP), a state of matter that existed only microseconds after the universe was born. That state existed only for a brief period and the only way to create it now is to mimic the conditions that prevailed just after the fiery birth of the cosmos. Gigantic machines located in Europe and the US manage to do that by smashing subatomic particles with speeds almost that of light.

To conclusively prove that those machines are actually producing QGP, Sinha had suggested that the experimenters look for the typical photons, or particles of light, that would emerge from the collision debris. The predictions have been tested in experiments at CERN, the European Centre for Nuclear Physics near Geneva.

Addressing a press conference to announce the decision of the Indian Physics Association, Dr R.K. Bhandari, associate director, VECC, highlighted Sinha’s leadership in several projects, including the superconducting cyclotron facility at the VECC and the photon multiplicity detector (PMD), which will be used at the upcoming large hadron collider (LHC) at CERN and the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) of Brookhaven National Laboratory, US.

Sinha said on Friday he was happy that the PMD, which would help experimenters analyse data emerging at mind-boggling speed from the particle-smashing experiments, signals a significant Indian contribution in the high-energy physics research at the world level.

Always a vociferous spokesman for drawing young talent into basic science, Sinha said the SINP has been engaged in a talent hunt to select brilliant school students and expose them to research. “I’m sorry to say that most Indian parents are responsible for brainwashing bright youngsters into believing their future lies in information technology or biotechnology,” he commented. “My only advice to our kids — refuse to be brainwashed, be courageous enough to ignore your parents.”

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