Despite physicists exploring and attempting to explain the fundamental components of universe, origin of mass and theory of extra dimensions, recent observations have pointed to evidence that we can only account for five per cent of the universe. The remaining 95 per cent is a mysterious dark matter and dark energy.
Scientists dealing in particle physics world-over have decided to build a precision machine, the proposed International Linear Collider (ILC), to explore some of the most fundamental questions about the universe. It will be the world’s next largest accelerator after the one being built at CERN in Switzerland. India is an important collaborator for ILC.
Dr Shekhar Mishra, the ILC programme deputy director at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (USA), having world’s highest energy proton accelerator, is in Indore to participate in the Asian conference at Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology.
He spoke to Padma Shastri on Indo-US collaboration for ILC. Excerpts
The race to set up ILC has begun. How long will it take to complete?
Three regions – Asia, Europe and the Americas - have been identified to install ILC. Everyone wants this machine, but it will be the international body that decides its exact location. The process is long. We will be going to Beijing next month to deliberate on its reference design. As soon as this is over, it will take another three years to prepare its engineering design.
At the same time, we will be working rigorously on research and development. We want it to be economical. By 2009-10, all three regions will develop site design of this machine. Then somebody has to stand up and say that we will have this. It will consist of two linear accelerators that face each other and will throw some 10 billion electrons and their anti-particles, positrons, towards each other at nearly the speed of light. By 2012, we will be in a position to say when will it be commissioned.
How will it be different from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN?
LHC is a discovery machine while ILC is a precise measure machine. The latter will be an unprecedented technology, but it will complement CERN machine and together they could unlock some of the deepest mysteries in the universe. With LHC discoveries pointing the way, ILC will provide the missing pieces of puzzle.
Superconducting accelerator cavities operating at temperatures near absolute zero give the particles more and more energy until they smash in a blazing crossfire at the centre of the machine. Stretching approximately 35 kilometres in length, the beams collide 14,000 times every second at extremely high energies -500 billion-electron-volts. Each spectacular collision creates an array of new particles that could answer some of the most fundamental questions of all time.
How important is India for ILC collaboration?
It’s a major player in collaboration on research and development for accelerator physics, high-energy physics, neutron physics, and high intensity proton machines. ILC comes under this collaboration. We have agreement to collaborate at laboratory level. We are holding umbrella discussions with Indian scientists and are open to new ideas. We feel Indian laboratories have the required expertise and one of the largest and most talented manpower in the world.
My (Fermi Lab) director Pierrmaria Oddone, ILC director Barry Barish and other US lab directors visited India recently. I come here every third month. If all the big names are coming to India, then why not high energy physics? In return, the collaboration will help Indian scientists to hone their skill and develop its infrastructure.
What is your impression about India’s nuclear capability?
It’s impressive. It is setting up one nuclear reactor in five years, that too in a very cost-effective way. No other country is doing it that way. But you are building it one after another. The Indian policy in last 20 years has been very aggressive and that has made India world’s major player apart from China.