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Enough about Higgs, let's discuss the boson: India

Published Jul 10, 2012 10:16am


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A picture with a zoom effect show a grafic traces of proton-proton collisions events.—AFP Photo
A picture with a zoom effect show a grafic traces of proton-proton collisions events.—AFP Photo

NEW DELHI: While much of the world was celebrating the international cooperation that led to last week's breakthrough in identifying the existence of the Higgs boson particle, many in India were smarting over what they saw as a slight against one of their greatest scientists.    

Media covering the story gave lots of credit to British physicist Peter Higgs for theorizing the elusive subatomic ''God particle,'' but little was said about Satyendranath Bose, the Indian after whom the boson is named.

Despite the fact that Bose had little direct involvement in theorizing the Higgs boson itself, in India the lack of attention given to one of their own was seen as an insult too big to ignore.

''He is a forgotten hero,'' the government lamented in a lengthy statement, noting that Bose was never awarded a Nobel Prize though ''at least 10 scientists have been awarded the Nobel'' in the same field.

The annoyance marks yet another case in the ever-growing list of perceived global snubs Indians feel they suffer, from the US airport searches of Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan to the naming of a superbug after New Delhi, where it was found.

''Indians are touchy about this. All post-colonial societies are touchy about this,'' said political psychologist Ashis Nandy of the Delhi-based think tank Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

''The sooner we get out of that, the better.''

Nandy, who interviewed Bose before his death in 1974, said the scientist himself was ''least concerned about rankings and prizes.''

The boson is named in honour of the Kolkata-born scientist's work in the 1920s with Albert Einstein in defining one of two basic classes of subatomic particles. The work describes how photons can be considered particles as well as waves—such as in a laser beam. All particles that follow such behaviour, including the Higgs boson, are called bosons.

Higgs, the English physicist, and others proposed the Higgs boson's existence in 1964 to explain what might give shape and size to all matter. Laymen and the media sometimes call it the ''God particle'' because it existence is key to understanding the early evolution of the universe.

By then, Bose was living in his Indian city of Kolkata after 25 years running the physics department at Dacca University, in what is now Bangladesh. Bose died aged 80 in 1974. The Nobel is not awarded posthumously.

Indian newspapers decried the fact that Bose was mostly ignored last week when scientists announced the Higgs boson breakthrough, made using a giant atom smasher at the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland.

Bose ''remains unmentioned in most news stories about this discovery,'' read an opinion piece in the Hindustan Times written by Yale University professor Priyamvada Natarajan, who says Western scientists often gain credit for major discoveries.

''It is harder for scientists to be recognized if they are seen as outliers and if their gender, race or work do not let them belong,'' she said.

The Sunday Times of India noted other eminent Indian scientists who ''never got their due,'' including physicist G N Ramachandran who died in 2001 after making biological discoveries like collagen's triple-helix structure and 3-D imaging used in studying the human body.

It also said living Indian scientists, Varanasi-based molecular biologist Lalji Singh and New York-based E Premkumar Reddy, should be current candidates for awards. Both men reportedly told the Sunday Times they were not interested in lobbying for prizes.

''Many people in this country have been perplexed, and even annoyed, that the Indian half of the now-acknowledged 'God particle' is being carried in lower case,'' The Economic Times wrote in an editorial Monday. What most don't realize is that the naming of all bosons after Bose ''actually denotes greater importance.''


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Comments (16) Closed

virendra kaul Jul 11, 2012 02:53am
Nobel prize is no yard stick to measure one's achievements. For the matter Gandhi was not awarded the Nobel Prize yet he is one of the greatest leaders the world acknowledges.
shahid Jul 11, 2012 03:02am
nothing new has done the scientists, it was already known to us 1400 years ago. If doubt you can ask from any enlightened Alam e din.
don Jul 11, 2012 12:51am
You guys born in sub-con are always complaining about West, and then you still come to West to get recognized. There is a fundamental flaw in your victim mentality. Instead of celebrating Higgs you are trying to steal the show. What a shame!
sufi Jul 11, 2012 12:55am
The annoyance marks yet another case in the ever-growing list of perceived global snubs Indians feel they suffer, from the US airport searches of Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan to the naming of a superbug after New Delhi, where it was " found." That is the reason Pakistan did not allow Indians in Nawabshah airport after their plane broke.
NASAH (USA) Jul 10, 2012 11:49am
The fact that the word 'boson' is the word coined by the world scientists to describe ALL particles that are the building blocks of matter including the Higgs particles -- should be an all time living tribute to the memory of Dr. Satyendre Bose and his contributions. How many scientist can claim that privilege besides Mr. Higgs and Dr. Bose? So quit complaining.
bardas Jul 10, 2012 04:19pm
dr abdus salam co shared the nobel prize for his research on sub-atomic particles back in 70's --he laid the foundation for further research --but again we know where we stand in the western world, thanks to zia ul haq rot in hell...for destroying pakistan...
vbi Jul 10, 2012 10:59am
What is wrong in expecting recognition ? If that is the case, then even the scientists from west should not be recognized. Its natural that every person/country need to be recognized for the good things that they do.
Shail Jul 10, 2012 04:48pm
Dr. Salam's contribution was also immense in this field. He applied Higg's field to electroweak field. Anyway, science is always built up on efforts of pioneers. [ Satyendra Nath Bose in this case.] So everyone should be equally applauded.
Deb Jul 10, 2012 11:07am
Government (of India) issued a lengthy statement!!!! If they did, there was no mention of it in English medaia, print (I read 3 of them) or electronic. That's a news on it's own right..
abhinav Jul 10, 2012 01:15pm
get your facts right,the Indian is the one who contributed and it also features in the name,go and chech the site of CERN,their is no mention of any pakistani there
sam Jul 10, 2012 12:33pm
Got another perspective after reading this article... But the question remains the same... If one can discuss about who was higgs after discovering higgs boson, then why not discuss who was boson (bose).... Anyway higgs seems to be the most important boson....
Tariq Jul 10, 2012 12:17pm
Actually there was good article on Satyendranath Bose in the NYTimes the day after the news broke regarding the discovery. However, it was not mentioned in the western press generally. Of course there is by-n-large duality in west when it comes to reporting of items that may have positive/significant weight, other than their own race and creed. And be rest assured if there were an event that would maligned your nation/country it would make headlines!
Sanwal Saraiki Jul 10, 2012 12:10pm
Indians are trying to mix up and confusing the world with two similar names 'Bose & Boson'. Bose had little to do with this new 'god particle' as written in para 2 above. Actually the pioneering work of Dr. Abdus Salam helped lead to the apparent discovery of the sub-atomic “God particle” last week ( Ref. article in Gulf News of today). We Pakistani are proud of our Saraiki scientist Dr. Abdus Salaam, one and the only Nobel Laureate' from Jhang / Saraiki Waseb.The late physicist is surely hero of Saraiki Waseb.
JJDoe Jul 11, 2012 05:35am
I'm sorry. Don't mix the peace prize up with the scientific ones. Ever since Obama got the peace prize, it has left a sour aftertaste in my mouth. They are severely biased it seems. I still don't know why Obama got one...
syed Jul 11, 2012 06:48am
Seems like an Indian influenced news paper.....
Syiem Jul 11, 2012 06:59am
This article is written in fairly poor tasts. Consider this for example: "The annoyance marks yet another case in the ever-growing list of perceived global snubs Indians feel they suffer, from the US airport searches of Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan to the naming of a superbug after New Delhi, where it was found." What is wrong about seeking recognition for the citizens of your country. Why does India's "ever-growing list of perceived global snubs" bother you? Is it because the Pakistani government does not react when its citizens are slighted and humiliated the world over? In a recent interview when PM Ghilani was questioned that one-third of Pakistanis want to leave Pakistan, his answer was: "So who's stopping them". This is what the PM of Pakistani thinks about 600 million Pakistanis. What have you done to Abdus Salam - even his grave was not spared from desecration.