On Wednesday, as theoretical physicist Sreerup Raychaudhuri watched a live telecast of scientists from Switzerland announcing the discovery of a new sub-atomic particle that is consistent with the elusive Higgs boson, he said a 25-year old dream had come true.
The Higgs boson, popularly known as the God particle, is believed to give mass to fundamental particles such as protons and neutrons.
Raychaudhuri, a professor at the department of theoretical physics, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Navy Nagar, has been working on proving the existence of the Higgs boson for the past 25 years. “Discovering the Higgs solves dozens of other problems in a simpler way,” he said.
TIFR is involved in one of the four experiments conducted by the Large Hadron Collider, an atomic smasher. The LHC is located about a hundred metres below the ground in a tunnel on the Swiss-French border at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva.
“This an opportunity of a lifetime because it’s been several decades since a discovery of this nature was made. In the last four months, the performance of the machine was significantly better and the collisions took place at higher speed. As a result, the probability of finding the Higgs went up by 25% to 30%,” said experimentalist Gagan Mohanty, professor, department of high energy physics, TIFR.
Started in September 2009, the proton beam collisions in the LHC were aimed at discovering two hypothetical particles, Higgs boson and Supersymmetry, whose existence has been debated by the world scientific community for the past 40 years.
“As a theorist, the prediction of the Higgs’ existence is true. But more than proving the theory, this is an experimental achievement because the machine has detected the particle,” said Amol Dighe, professor, department of theoretical physics, TIFR. “Now, we need to see how this new particle interacts with other particles such as electrons and photons.”