Many Pakistanis may not be aware that their country’s contributions to some of the most important scientific experiments and discoveries in the world did not end with the late Dr Abdus Salam, the only Pakistani ever to win the Nobel Prize in Physics.
In fact, at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), not only did electronics manufactured in Pakistan help in the detection of the Higgs boson, the elementary particle scientists believe imparts mass to all particles, Pakistani engineers and technicians are also currently participating in repairs of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the highest energy particle accelerator in the world.
Pakistan’s collaboration with CERN, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, first started in 1994 through the efforts of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), said Dr Hafeez Hoorani, the director of research at the National Centre for Physics (NCP) in Islamabad. The NCP became a part of PAEC’s collaboration with CERN after it was established in 1999.
At present, the NCP is one of the hundreds of grid nodes in the world that receive scientific data from the LHC, which are being used by NCP researchers and students.
“We as a nation should be proud of the fact that today Pakistan is part of an experiment which is the most exciting and challenging experiments of all times,” Hoorani, who has worked at CERN himself, said. “This project helps our students get involved in cutting-edge research.”
The LHC collides two high-energy, unbelievably fast beams of elementary particles, so scientists can test scientific models on the interaction of subatomic particles.
The Higgs boson — until the announcement of its discovery on July 4, 2012, the Higgs was the only missing element in the Standard Model of Physics, a model that Salam contributed to through his work on electroweak theory — decays instantaneously, so scientists had to confirm its existence through particles formed by its decomposition.