Tamil Nadu

‘Shifting of neutrino project will be a huge loss to TN’

Experts say Bodi hills in Theni district are ideal for setting up the Neutrino Observatory.— FILE PHOTO: G. KARTHIKEYAN

Experts say Bodi hills in Theni district are ideal for setting up the Neutrino Observatory.— FILE PHOTO: G. KARTHIKEYAN  

The India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO), a major science project of the country, which was all set to come up in Theni in Tamil Nadu, is in danger of being shifted to some other State because of obstacles created by activists.

However, understanding neutrino, an elusive elementary particle, is a frontline problem in modern physics. India can proudly say that the first detection of cosmic-ray produced neutrinos was in the Kolar Gold Field (KGF) experiment in 1965. Now, INO offers new opportunities for exciting scientific discoveries and technological spin-offs.

Neutrinos are shy and harmless. A neutrino can pass right through the entire Earth without affecting any one of the nucleus or electrons on its way. Billions of neutrinos pass through our body every second, without hurting an atom or a molecule in our body.

Two Nobel Prizes have been awarded for the detection of these elusive neutrinos, one in 2002 and the other in 2015.

Facilities like INO can pave the way for future Nobel Prizes for India.

The INO project will create a national underground laboratory facility, a neutrino telescope, using a collaborative network of institutes and scientists from our country. The shy neutrinos are part of the elementary particle shower in natural cosmic rays. To isolate and detect these neutrinos, we need special efforts. Nature has endowed Tamil Nadu with an ideal telescope in the form of a barren hill, 1.3 km high, in the Bodi hills of Theni district. This barren hill will filter all other cosmic rays and provide an opportunity to detect neutrinos in the underground INO laboratories, to be located at the end of a two kilometre long tunnel at the base of the hill.

To build this INO facility and to create scientifically trained human power, an Inter-Institutional Centre for High Energy Physics (IICHEP) is being established near the Madurai Kamaraj University campus. This IICHEP Centre will develop into a major research institute of the country, with State, national and international participation. It will make Tamil Nadu proud.

Based on misconceptions

Major steps have already been taken by our country for the implementation of the INO project. The Government of India approved, in early 2015, an expenditure of Rs. 1,500 crore. The Government of Tamil Nadu has generously granted the lands in Theni district and Madurai for the underground laboratory facility and IICHEP respectively.

Unfortunately, cases have been filed against INO in the Madras High Court’s Madurai Bench and in the National Green Tribunal’s Southern Bench in Chennai. As professional physicists, we can say that these allegations arise from misconceptions in basic physics and technology.

They are far from truth. The allegations have been countered and the real facts about INO have been explained; for details, see the INO websitewww.ino.tifr.res.in/ino/.

The former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, when questioned about INO in 2010 said, “Scientific institutions and colleges around the Theni area will be reinforced through the neutrino project.

Just as CERN is famous for its Large Hadron Collider project, Theni and the surrounding region will become famous for neutrino particle physics experiments. I expect great scientific and technological activity in the project site and the neighbouring academic institutions.” Kalam wrote about the INO project in The Hindu on June 17, 2015 and cleared misconceptions. He strongly believed that the INO will make the Theni region as world famous as CERN. He had extensive plans to educate and seek the support of the public for the establishment of the INO project in Theni. Unfortunately, Kalam passed away on July 27, 2015.

While talking about INO project Kalam said, “We must dream. It is dreams that will take India forward.” We must educate the forces of ignorance opposing INO, through spreading of scientific understanding.

The INO facility must be established in Tamil Nadu. The State Government, the people of Tamil Nadu, and especially the students must make every effort towards this dream, removing the obstacles in the way of the INO facility.

The activists are making scientifically irrational claims and spreading misconceptions,

Even though they claim to follow Periyar’s legacy, they are unfortunately making it sensational simply by juxtaposing neutrino and ‘nuclear’. It is high time for the silent majority to show that they are not in agreement with the propaganda of the activists.

We earnestly appeal to the Government of Tamil Nadu to remove the obstacles and expedite the INO facility.

( The authors are Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar awardees in physics. While Profs Baskaran and Simon are SERB Distinguished Fellows at The Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai, Lakshmanan is Professor of Eminence at Bharathidasan University in Tiruchi ).

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Printable version | Sep 17, 2020 7:10:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/%E2%80%98Shifting-of-neutrino-project-will-be-a-huge-loss-to-TN%E2%80%99/article16078688.ece

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