What do you call a headache that wants to become a migraine?


Satyendra Nath Bose

If you make a landmark discovery, but no journal is willing to publish it, what do you do? If you are Satyendra Nath Bose, you send it to the most famous scientist in the world.


Satyendra Nath was born on 1st January, 1894 in Kolkata. He went to Hindu School and then Presidency College, and ranked the first in both places. At Presidency College, he met great scientists like Jagdish Chandra Bose and Prafulla Chandra Roy, who inspired him to take up a career in scientific research.

In 1916, he became a lecturer at the University of Calcutta, and in 1921 moved on to Dhaka University as Professor of Physics. While explaining a concept of quantum theory in a lecture, he made a mistake. But later on, he thought he hadn't made a mistake but was quite right, because it explained some facts which the older theory could not. He wrote down his thoughts as a scientific article. Journals refused to publish it, because they said it was a mistake. Frustrated, he sent his paper to Albert Einstein.

Einstein agreed that it wasn't a mistake but the truth. He translated it into German and published it in a German journal. This made Bose very famous, and he got invites from European physicists to visit them. He travelled to Europe in 192426. After India's partition he shifted to Kolkata, where he taught at the university till his retirement in 1956. He died in 1974.

BoseEinstein Condensate

In ordinary physics, each particle is distinct from each other. You can track each particle. This is true of all big and small things like planets, rubber balls and even grains of dust. But when we go into smaller scales, like subatomic particles (like electrons), the ordinary rules don't apply. The particles become indistinguishable, and so we cannot track them. This is the realm of quantum physics.

S.N. Bose and Albert Einstein together developed many of the principles that apply in quantum physics. These are together known as BoseEinstein Statistics. While this science is quit difficult, it makes an interesting prediction. It says that atoms, when cooled to a temperature close to absolute zero (273.15C), will collapse into a new state of matter. This is called the BoseEinstein Condensate (BEC).

Many people thought BEC was just an idea, since it was near impossible to make. The first BEC took seventy years to make after Bose's paper. In 1995, Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman, of the University of Colorado cooled rubidium atoms to very near absolute zero. Their detector indicated the formation of a BEC, proving Bose & Einstein correct.


Particles that obey BoseEinstein statistics are called bosons. These include particles like photons and mesons. You can track a single atom, but never a single photon. In fact a photon can at the same time exist in two places. Two photons can exchange places without moving at all.

When you are making a BoseEinstein Condensate all the individual atoms disappear. Instead what you get are the subatomic particles, all becoming bosons. So whatever substance you make a BEC out of, all BECs are exactly the same - a collection of bosons.

One kind of boson is the Higgs boson. It is described by physicists in theory, but none has ever seen one yet. So physicists have built a huge special machine called the Large Hadron Collider. It is a circular tunnel 27 km underneath the Swiss mountains, and cost $ 9 billion to build. All to find a tiny particle, predicted by a mistake!


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