ICTS organized a public outreach program titled “Kaapi with Curiosity” at Christ University yesterday. The Nobel laureate David Gross delivered a talk titled “My Life In Physics” offering an overview of the historical development of particle physics from Quarks to strings at the Kuriakose Elias Auditorium on the Christ University campus in Bangalore. The event was organized by the International Center For Theoretical Sciences (ICTS).
Dr David Gross is one of the most distinguished professors in the world and is also the winner of 2004 Nobel Prize in physics for the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of strong interactions. Currently he works as a professor of physics and is also the director of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at UC Santa Barbara. ICTS established in Bangalore is modeled on this institute and carries out interdisciplinary research in computational biology, theoretical computer science and quantum physics. The institute also has dedicated groups working on astrophysical relativity, string theory, biophysics and fluid dynamics.
You can view videos of all talks and public outreach events conducted by ICTS on their Youtube channel.
Dr David Gross began the talk by declaring that he decided to study particle physics at the young age of 13 years inspired by three of his favorite popular science books. These books were
- One. Two.. Three… Infinity – By George Gamow,
- The Evolution Of Physics – By Albert Einsten and Leopold Infeld ,
- The Expanding Universe – By Sir Arthur Eddington
Since then there has been no looking back. After completing his B.Sc at the University Of Jerusalem, he was lucky to find himself accepted for Graduate studies at the Berkeley institute which in the 1960’s was the mecca of particle physics with its Bevatron particle accelerator. He then spoke about the various discoveries made by theoretical physicists and cited the example of Rutherford who discovered the nucleus with his gold foil experiment. This discovery fundamentally altered our understanding of matter and was a watershed event in the development of particle physics.
The Proliferation Of Particles
The electron was discovered just before the start of the 20th century while the proton was discovered only in 1919. The neutron was later discovered in the lab in 1931. Soon leptons, kaons, pions, hadrons and different kinds of neutrinos were being discovered every week as the energies of particle accelerators around the world increased. When he was a student at the University Of Berkeley, new particles were being discovered every other week. He recounted how it was indeed an exciting time to be a particle physicist.
By the end of the 1960’s it seemed that protons were made of a different type of elementary constituents called Quarks. Protons were found to have two up quarks and one down quark while Neutrons were found to contain one up quark and two down quark. By the 1960’s, experimentally available data suggested that the protons are made up of elementary particles that behave like free particles over short distances and times. This was when Dr David Gross was convinced that quarks must exist and this led him to begin studying quarks. This intense period of study and experimentation lasted for more than five years.
The quantum vacuum is full of fluctuating fields and the Nobel laureate spoke succinctly on the hunt for Higgs boson and other recent discoveries made by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). In his concluding note to students his best advice for aspiring particle physicists was to not ask for advice. He further stated that he believed luck played a huge role in his achievements and asked students to create their own luck.