Satyendra Nath Bose: The God Particle’s neglected namesake

Ananya Bhattacharya

In the territory of science, they say, nothing can be designated the rock-solid status of a ‘theory’. Hypotheses are all that anybody can think of, and today’s established theory might be shown the door tomorrow. The field is diverse, researches unending, and discoveries incessant and earth-shattering.

Every century has been a witness to many revelatory discoveries and inventions in science. But the latter half of 2011 went a step ahead. It shook the basic bedrock of Physics, almost rendered in tatters the foundation of Albert Einstein’s iconic E=mc2: scientists at CERN cast doubts on the ‘fact’ that nothing travelled faster than light. Certain neutrinos, they claimed, might, travel faster. The entire scientific world was shaken out of their luxurious realities with this revelation. Challenging the God of Modern Physics wasn’t something that someone did every day, after all.

July 2012 marked another milestone in the history of Quantum Physics – God Particle, they claimed, had been discovered. The God Particle, otherwise known as the Higgs boson particle, is one that has been instrumental in holding many in taut suspension ever since its purported existence rose to the fore. While Albert Einstein has been immortalised in realms superterranean, and Peter Higgs’ list of awards don’t find an end, the other scientist whose namesake is a part of this God Particle, has been brutally glossed over. His contributions never found the international acknowledgement of a Nobel Prize, and the irony is even more glaring in the fact that several researches but the foundational one on the ‘Boson’ particle have been honoured with that ultimate recognition. Satyendra Nath Bose undoubtedly deserved a Nobel. At the least.

Bose’s research career spanned decades of hard work and inadequate recognition. What with his path-breaking researches on particle physics and notable discoveries in quantum statistics being among the greatest achievements of the 20th century, SN Bose could easily have been awarded a Nobel Prize. His overarching status of a researcher might then have been done some justice to.

The God Particle, which has created such a deafening brouhaha in the last few days, wasn’t one that just came into being. The Higgs boson particle, based on the Bose-Einstein Statistics, was one that had its hypothesis in place – thanks to the work of this Indian and Einstein. With its existence now on its way to embrace the pedestal of the truth, one might be forced to wonder why was it that while on the one hand Physics is replete with mentions of Einstein, on the other, Bose is a man who is hardly in the radar of recognition.

Any layman with even a scintilla of knowledge of physics knows the name of Albert Einstein. SN Bose, in many higher echelons of knowledge, still lies enshrouded in ignorance. The name of SN Bose, despite being the name behind the naming of the particle that has shot to prominence yet again, doesn’t appear the way it deserves to.

Satyendra Nath Bose, in early 20th century, along with Albert Einstein, engendered the basic tenets of the particles called bosons. And what followed thereafter is a saga of friendship, symbiosis and a relationship that transcended the mortal realms well into the immortal. Bose-Einstein Statistics, the Bose-Einstein Condensate and work on bosons are glowing reminders of that phenomenal relationship – which gave rise to several foundational elements of advanced physics.

With the Higgs-Boson particle on the threshold of solid discovery, Satyendra Nath Bose might have been happy with his work being the fulcrum of it all. Pride is not the only emotion that an Indian would feel at Bose’s name being a part of that which is supposed to be the crux of all matter. The feeling is an amalgam of an inarticulate rush of emotions. A thousand Nobel Prizes couldn’t have done what the God Particle has done to an Indian scientist. Almost four decades since his demise, the man has been re-instated as an immortal – and this time, the entire world has been jolted out of a stupor. Years of neglect later, realisation has struck hard. Satyendra Nath Bose isn’t a man who can be forgotten in the blink of an eye.

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