The world is celebrating the discovery of the
sub-atomic particle at CERN, Geneva, which many believe could well be the long
sought after Higgs-Boson. This particle is also called the ‘God Particle’
because its existence is fundamental to the creation of the universe.
School physics teaches us that everything is made up of atoms, and
inside atoms are electrons, protons and neutrons. They, in turn, are made of
quarks and other subatomic particles. Scientists have long puzzled over how
these minute building blocks of the universe acquire mass. Without mass,
particles wouldn't hold together and there would be no matter.
One theory proposed by British physicist Peter Higgs and teams in
Belgium and the United States in the 1960s is that a new particle must be
creating a "sticky" field that acts as a drag on other particles. The
atom-smashing experiments at CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research,
have now captured a glimpse of what appears to be just such a Higgs Boson like
British Physicist Peter Higgs of the ‘Higgs-Boson’ is
a familiar name in the world of science. However, it is not well known that the
term Boson, owes its name to the pioneering work of the late Indian physicist,
Satyendra Nath Bose. He is a forgotten hero, even in India, even though he won
a world wide fame for his association with the great Albert Einstein in
developing a theory of the particle-like qualities of light. His pioneering work on the quantum theory of
light provided the foundation for Bose-Einstein Condensates, a new state of
matter in which thousands of atoms condense into a single giant atom that
behaves like a wave. Particles that follow Bose’s statistics have been named
bosons in his honour.
Who was Satyendranath Bose?
Satyendranath Bose was born on January 1, 1894 in
Calcutta (now Kolkata). His father Surendranath Bose was employed in the
Engineering Department of the East India Railway.
As a student of the Hindu High School, Bose once was
awarded 110 marks out of 100 in mathematics because he had solved some problems
in the exam paper by more than one method. He made a name for himself in school
due to his love for science.Later he attended the Presidency College also in
Calcutta, where another noted scientist Meghnad Saha was his fellow student. Bose came in contact with teachers like
Jagdish Chandra Bose and Prafulla Chandra Ray, who provided inspiration to aim
high in life.
In 1924, while working as Reader in the Physics
Department of University of Dacca, Bose wrote a paper on novel way of counting
states with identical particles. This paper was seminal in creating the very
important field of quantum statistics. His paper was not accepted for
publication at once.
heart, Satyendranath Bose sent the article directly to Albert Einstein in
Germany with a request to help it get published in the leading German language
science journal Zeitschrift fur Physik. In his covering letter to Einstein,
Bose wrote “though a complete stranger to you, I do not feel any hesitation in
making such a request. Because we are all your pupils though profiting only by
your teachings through your writings.”
Einstein, recognizing the importance of the paper,
translated it into German and submitted it for publication on Bose’s behalf.
The publication changed the life of Satyendra Nath Bose. The Dacca University
now opened its eyes and agreed to fund his tour to Europe, even though he had
only possessed a Master’s degree and no further qualifications.
Bose first visited Paris in 1924, where he stayed for
a year. He conducted research in the Madame Curie Laboratory, which had special
facilities. The next year, he left Paris for Berlin to join Einstein and work
with him. There he came into close contact with noted scientists like
Schroedinger and Heisenberg. He participated in all the meetings and
discussions held there.
While Bose was in Berlin, the post of a Professor fell
vacant in Dacca University. Bose’s friends persuaded him to apply but he was
hesitant, as he had not got his doctorate yet. A recommendation by Einstein
could have fixed the matter. With great hesitation, Bose approached Einstein
for help. Einstein was surprised. He said “you are so proficient in your
subject. Is their need for any other certificate?” He wrote a letter to the authorities in the
Dacca University, which had a desired effect. In 1926, Satyendranath Bose was
appointed Professor and Head of the Department of Physics.
Bose served in Dacca University for nearly 25 years.
As a teacher he was admired by his students who held him in high esteem. In
1944, when he was the Head of the Science Section in Dacca University, Bose was
chosen as the General President of the 31st
session of the Indian Science Congress.
Bose, who worked with Albert Einstein to bring out the
Bose-Einstein statistics and the theory of Bose-Einstein Condensate in the
1920s, was a natural candidate for a Nobel Prize which he never got. Yet, at least ten scientists have been
awarded the Nobel for their research in the field of particle physics based on
concepts like the Bose-Einstein Condensate or the Boson.
'Indians are incapable of achieving anything great in
science. At best, they are experts in subjects like philosophy “ was the view
most held in the West during those years. Satyendranath Bose dispelled that
impression and did yeoman service in the fields of science, with some
pioneering contributions in the fields of quantum physics.
Satyendranath Bose was a self-taught scholar who had a
wide range of interests in varied fields including physics, mathematics,
chemistry, biology, mineralogy, arts, literature and music.
Back home, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore dedicated his
only book on science – Vishwa Parichay to him. The Government of India
conferred the Padma Vibhushan award on Satyendranath Bose in 1954. At the age
of 80, Bose suffered an unexpected and a severe heart attack and breathed his
last on the 4th of February 1974.
The CERN experiment has once again brought focus on
Satyendranath Bose. For India God Particle is as much Boson as Higgs.
(with input from various sources )
FEATURE ,PIB, MUMBAI