Our goose is cooked, our reputation is shot, wake up little Susie...’’
Inside a drab building by south Mumbai’s seaside, it is not uncommon to walk into a professor humming a 1960s hit on waking up a girl called Susie.
But the physicists at the nuclear sciences centre here are not referring to Simon and Garfunkel’s Susie who slept at the movies. They long instead to discover SUSY— a nickname for supersymmetric particle — to help physicists better understand the formation of stars, earth and life. SUSY will also help solve a cosmic riddle — the nature of dark matter, part of the invisible mass in the universe.
So the search for the enigmatic SUSY is speeding up at CERN, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory in Geneva, where a 36-nation team will recreate the origin of the universe. India’s participation in this quest now involves five research centres.
Inside a 27-km circumference underground tunnel called the LHC (Large Hadron Collider), the world’s best physicists will accelerate and collide particles — the building blocks of all matter, smaller than atoms — at the speed of light, in temperatures colder than outer space.
“The cavemen would smash two stones to understand their matter,” said Atul Gurtu, India spokesman for the experiment and senior professor, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai. “Today we collide particles.”
TIFR and Punjab University collaborated on a Rs 10-crore 450 sq m detector to help detect SUSY. It is now being installed at CERN as a major component for one of four experiments that will run inside the tunnel, called an accelerator.
From televisions and transistors to computers, medical-imaging devices or artificial hips, particle physics is involved in some way. The detection of SUSY and Higgs field will help solve the universe’s big unknowns that flummox scientists, like why elementary particles have mass and why the mass differs.