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Satyendra Nath Bose deserved Nobel, says CERN chief

KOLKATA: Rolf-Dieter Heuer, the director general of European organization for nuclear research CERN, says it is unfortunate that pioneering Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose did not win the Nobel Prize for work on quantum physics in the 1920s that provided the foundation of the Bose-Einstein statistics and the theory of the Bose-Einstein condensate, a dense collection of bosons or particles with spin named after Bose.

Though several Nobel Prizes have been awarded for research related to the concepts of the boson, Bose-Einstein statistics and Bose-Einstein condensate, Bose never got the award in his lifetime. Since Nobel is not given posthumously, the award will continue to elude the scientist.

“It is ironical that Bose was not given the award despite his immense contribution to science. But it in no way undermines his stature as one of the leading physicists the world has had,” the CERN chief said on Monday.

Currently in Bose’s city to participate in an interdisciplinary scientific meet titled Frontiers of Science, Heuer said he was privileged to be in the country that was like a historical father of the high-profile Higgs-boson project in search of the basic building blocks of the cosmos.

Bose’s name, though intrinsically linked to particle physics after English theoretical physicist Paul Dirac coined the term to commemorate the contribution of the Indian physicist in describing a particular manner in which certain particles behaved, had slipped from public memory in his very hometown till the excitement over the confirmation of Higgs-boson particle reignited a rather trivial debate over the use of small ‘b’ instead of capital ‘B’ in the term ‘boson’.

While some scientists remarked that it ought to have been christened Boson, others felt boson in lower case elevated Bose from being known as an individual physicist to becoming an integral part of science.

Explaining that lower case had been used in boson as it referred to a family of particles, Heuer said it being in lower case did not belittle Bose in any way. “I often write Boson with ‘b’ in capitals. Now that I am in Bose’s city, I am capping it,” said Heuer.

On the discovery of Higgs-boson, Heuer said more work needed to be done before it could successfully be concluded that the particle had been discovered. “We have reached the first step of the ladder. There are more steps to follow. We have set a certain limit which the data significance has to exceed in order to call it a discovery and the signs are very encouraging. It takes a lot of time to say what we have discovered,” he said.

Urging India to join CERN as an associate member to enable its tremendous pool of scientists avail of top-class research facilities, Heuer said the cutting-edge research infrastructure would help them achieve new heights. It will also open up vistas for the Indian industry.

Though scientists are keen on India becoming an associate member, the annual fee of 10 million Swiss francs is a stumbling block. “We have information about India applying for the membership but we have not received anything in writing,” the CERN chief said.

According to CERN diversity programme head and member of the HR management board Sudeshna Datta-Cockerill, there are at least 250 Indian nationals working in CERN at present with another 100-plus scientists of Indian origin but with different nationalities.

“The Indian community is already very strong at CERN and it can become an even more dominant force if it becomes an associate member. Apart from science, living and working in a multi-cultural community is an experience of a lifetime,” said Cockerill, a Bengali from Kolkata who has been working at CERN for over 30 years and is now a Swiss national.

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