Geneva: These are exciting times for science as researchers are close to spotting the ‘God particle’, which has the possibility to explain the presence of stars, planets, humans and Digvijay Singh.
You can understand the euphoria among the physicists at the Europe’s CERN Laboratory near Geneva as this sub-atomic article has been ‘escaping the net’ for nearly three decades, even though as lay people we cannot but pose the basic scientific question: ‘Why do these experiments have to take place near the scenic Switzerland and not near the singeing Sahara?’
We also realise that there may be many such questions in your mind, too. But since this is about science, you probably didn’t care to ask. But we, on your behalf, have not only asked the relevant questions but also taken efforts to provide suitably irrelevant answers.
What is this CERN experiment?
Remember your childhood days, when you, after reading in science books that cats have the inherent ability to land on all fours even if you were to drop them upside down, took the neighbourhood kitten ‘Billu’ and, in a spirit of scientific quest, threw it down from the second-floor open terrace of your apartment building on a somnolent summer afternoon?
(This simple scientific quest in many lads like you led to the far-reaching discovery that the terrace is the best place to go ‘hiding’ with the neighbour’s girl on afternoons or dark evenings).
Many of us have attempted many similar things, which we have come to realise to be infantile.
But there are a few who still can’t seem to emerge out of that juvenility. And most of these maturity-challenged are now apparently employed at the CERN Laboratory, where they are now propelling sub-atomic particles at speeds nearing that of the light and letting them smash with each other, hoping to — this is a direct quote that explains the rationale behind the expensive experiment — ‘generate an array of other sub-atomic particles’.
Once this is done, they will probably embark on a further journey to unearth sub-sub-atomic particles. For, science knows no boundaries. Also, scientists know there is no boundary to multi-billion multi-government grant.
Explain the scientific rationale behind the name ‘God particle’
Scientists have named it ‘God particle’, because the honest alternative to it would be: ‘We are not sure what we are searching for’.
As we understand, it is only a theoretical particle, as researchers, after nearly three decades of experiments, have no proof for its existence at all, but have ‘proof for the range of the would-be particle’s mass and its properties’.
Let us put this in further perspective: The scientists in Europe have given a name and charted out the complete property of something that might not exist all. But here in India, we are still to come up with a name for something that sure exists. We, of course, are referring to Aishwarya Rai’s daughter here.
What’s this Higgs Boson?
Higgs Boson particle is the scientific name of the ‘God particle’ that the scientists are in the process of discovering.
The good news is that the scientists are on the right track. They have conclusive evidence for the existence of the scientist Peter Higgs, who has given his name for the particle.
(We repeat that ‘this’ particle has not been discovered yet, but Higgs has already anointed his name for it. Apparently, the research community follows the same scientific formula that we used to name Jawahar Rozgar Yogna).
But what about this Boson?
Bosons are sub-atomic particles (named after the Indian Satyendranath Bose) that obey Bose-Einstein statistics but not the Pauli Exclusion Principle.
We know that the previous sentence didn’t make much meaning. So for the sake of clarity we will explain this Pauli Exclusion Principle.
When the Austrian Wolfgang Pauli propounded the idea, ‘No two electrons, protons or neutrons in a given system can be in states characterized by the same set of quantum numbers’, the international scientific community instantly understood an important scientific truth that will be valid till this universe exists : Never let an Austrian attempt anything in English.
And if you do, even those keenly pursuing science will feel excluded.
Pauli later emigrated to America, where he diligently pursued his scientific experiments and came up with the fundamental theory relevant to anyone attempting quantum physics: ‘It is not an important scientific theory if you can explain it in simple sentences’.
Or as they succinctly say in our judiciary: Overcomplicate.
Explain this quantum physics
The branch of physics that involves study of quantum theory, which is theoretically encountered by those studying quantum physics, but practically useless, as is evident from the fact that it has not been helpful to even zero in on a small particle, which, of course, may not exist.
(Disclaimer: What kind of scientific knowledge can you expect from me, coming as I do from India, whose contribution to the world of science is, well, zero?)