As the world tuned in on Wednesday to watch scientists at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) announce the discovery of a new subatomic particle that is “consistent” with the Higgs boson, a group of researchers at the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics (SINP) here shared the excitement and anticipation of their colleagues in Geneva, as many of them have been a part of the experiments at the Large Hadron Collider for a decade.
Proud to have been “one of the human nuts and screws” that went into the discovery, Professor Satyaki Bhattacharya said: “I think it is important to note India’s upward gradient in its contributions — both in manpower and monetary resources — to the experiments.” Professor Bhattacharya joined the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment — one of the two detectors that were involved in the quest for the elusive particle — in 1999.
Although the SINP formally entered an agreement with CERN only in August 2011, a group of five researchers of the institute have been associated with the project for a long time.
Professor Sunanda Banerjee, leader of the group, was one of the main authors of the software through which the detectors — CMS and ATLAS — were first designed as a simulation, explained Professor Subir Sarkar, one of the members of the group.
“I was very anxious and excited over the last few days. Some of the data that was shown today was collected as late as June 19, and with such fresh data we had to be sure that it was consistent. We were constantly checking and discussing things with the spokesperson for our group” said Professor Suchandra Datta, one of the three co-ordinators for data quality monitoring for the CMS experiment.
Although she was well versed with the data that was to be presented at the conference during the day, the anticipation for the announcement was huge because she had no idea what researchers at the other experiment, ATLAS, had found.
“CMS and ATLAS were conducted independent of each other and we had no idea of the results of experiments conducted at ATLAS and whether or not they would match witsh our findings,” she said.
Professor Datta compared the CMS detector to “an onion” with several layers, having worked on it since 1997.
Professor Manoj Saran, who is closely working with his colleagues at CERN on upgrading the hardware of the detectors, said they had already started work on upgrades of certain parts.
“It is a bit like shifting from a wide-angle lens to a telephoto lens. So far we did not know where we would find it; it could have been a particle anywhere between 100 and 600 GeV. Now we have found something at around 125 GeV, so we can fine tune the detector further,” he said.