Why’s the ‘boson’ of Higg’s boson written in lower case? Why hasn’t the Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose, after whom the celebrated particle is half named, not been awarded the Nobel Prize yet [1, 2, 3, 4]? Why isn’t India, despite her traditional strength in particle physics, not an associate member of the mother of all particle physics labs CERN?
The boson debate, which reached its crescendo after the discovery of the Higgs boson (or something consistent with it) in CERN this July, has not died down in the land of Bose, whose Bose-Einstein statistics has become the basis of most quantum mechanics as we know it today.
This weekend (September 2-3, 2012) CERN Director general Rolf-Dieter Heuer was in Kolkata, where Bose spent most of his working life. He confronted the seething rage among Bengali scientists for having forgotten the contribution of one of India’s foremost physicists to the now famous particle. And obviously, he was bombarded by these uncomfortable questions.
The level-headed, media savvy CERN chief, however, fielded these queries with characteristic guile, dousing the curiosity of India’s scientific community once and for all.
“India is like the “historic father” of the Higgs boson project.”
“It’s a pity Bose did not get the Nobel. His contribution to science is immense and not getting a Nobel doesn’t in any way undermine his genius.”
“The new particle is a member of the boson family. The name Higgs signifies it as a definitive particle and boson signifies that it belongs to the boson family.”
Great sound bytes which will take the debate nowhere but, coming from Heuer, might certainly help pacify those who revere Bose.
The CERN membership question has also been bugging India for a long time now. Heuer, who had earlier said it’s a matter of money — a commitment of 10 miliion Swiss francs annually — clarified that he hasn’t yet got any written communication to support India’s claim that the country is interested in joining the league of CERN nations.
The boson debate and the associate membership discussions have gone nowhere but, as of now, Heuer and the Indian government would like us to believe otherwise. There are indications that by the year-end India might take a step ahead in this regard but going by the trend of all things official, it still looks like the elusive Higgs boson — is it or is it not?