Mega Science – Redefining the Boundaries of Human Knowledge

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Vigyan Samagam
Vigyan Samagam

Mega Science: Redefining the Boundaries of Human Knowledge
Read on to find out how the world’s largest, cutting-edge mega-science project based on international collaboration is revealing the deepest mysteries of the Universe by revolutionizing the very process of discovery. It is a matter of great pride that India is a part of these mega-science projects, which are described briefly in this article. What’s more, you can now visit Vigyan Samagam, a first-of-its-kind multi-venue exhibition, where all these projects are showcased to bring the world of frontline science to your doorstep!
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The journey of the modern phase of science began with the invention of a small handheld device used by Galileo a little over 400 years ago – the telescope. Mankind is now making huge leaps towards understanding the Universe using myriads of tools that were thought to be impossible only a generation ago. Welcome to the world of mega-science!

In order to highlight the value and impact of fundamental research to a broad cross-section of audience including students, academician and industry, and to further strengthen India’s participation in mega-science Projects, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Department of Science and Technology (DST) have jointly organised a multi-venue mega-science exhibition, Vigyan Samagam.

Vigyan Samagam exhibition is showcasing India’s contribution to international collaborations on fundamental science and research, and providing a common interactive platform for mega-science Projects, industry, academia and institutions. It is a science communication platform for policymakers, representatives of print and electronic media along with members of civil society. The exhibition is also ushering fundamental science and research as a strong career option for the youngsters. Such a spectrum of audience is expected to pave the way for a greater interaction between all stakeholders resulting in cross-fertilisation of ideas.
It is a matter of great pride that India is a partner in world’s biggest, cutting-edge science projects described here, which are redefining the boundaries of science and human knowledge.

Mega science projects based on international cooperation, such as TMT (Thirty Meter Telescope), aims to expand the boundaries of human knowledge about the Universe by constructing the world’s largest “optical” telescope through international collaboration. This Earth-based observatory will show deep structure of the Universe in glorious details unmatched by any optical telescope ever made earlier.

On the other hand, the SKA (Square Kilometer Array) is another mega science endeavor that takes the “radio astronomy” route instead of the “optical” route, to observe the Universe in detail by peering deep in time. The SKA project is building the largest distributed machine ever constructed by mankind – an array of thousands of dishes and over a million antennas spread over distances of thousands of kilometers. Amazingly, the whole array will work as a single machine by “stitching together” information recorded by each of these individual components. A highly advanced network of supercomputers will make it possible to virtually create a large single radio telescope with an effective physical surface area of all its constituent elements combined – that is, a radio telescope with an effective surface area of over one square kilometer, and hence its name – The Square Kilometer Array. The huge size of the SKA will enable it to look far deeper into space and time than has been possible ever before, all the way to the beginning of the universe – the “Big Bang”.

The LIGO project (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) senses ripples in time and space – perturbations created by mega cosmic events such as merging of neutron star. The US-based LIGO installations at Hanford in Washington and Livingston in Louisiana made a series of direct detections of gravitational waves for the very first time ever in 2015 (announced in 2016), which were predicted by Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity almost one hundred years ago. The sensitivity of the huge open-arm-shaped LIGO detectors is mind-boggling, which enable the detectors to sense these ripples that originate deep in the cosmos. A Nobel Prize has been won by three scientist who were instrumental in the project that led to the epoch-making discovery. Now India has plans to set up an advanced LIGO facility in the country.

There are different ways to know about the Universe. One of the approaches involves detecting and studying the tiniest particles of matter. CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) – a huge international collaboration – employs the world’s largest particle accelerator facility to smash apart tiniest particles of matter to split them open, creating even tinier particles – the fundamental building blocks of the Universe. Located on the border of Switzerland and France, CERN houses an underground accelerator complex. In 2012, the A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS (ATLAS) and Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) of CERN made the first-ever observation of Higgs boson, also popularly called the ‘God Particle’. Notably, bosons are particles that follow Bose–Einstein statistics and are named after Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose.

Another mega science project, FAIR (Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research), is a Germany-based international collaborative project is an international particle accelerator facility. It has a mission to study the structure of the Universe and its evolution from the “Big Bang” – the moment when the Universe came into existence – to the present time, by creating and studying matter that only exists in the faraway depths of the Universe. One of the major aims of the project is to create Compressed Baryonic Matter (CBM) in a lab. This extremely dense matter is not present on the Earth but exists in neutron stars!

INO (India-based Neutrino Observatory) is a mega-science project being set up in India. The facility aims to detect and study neutrinos of cosmic origin. This mega-science project involves building a huge neutrino detection facility in an underground cave more than 1,000 feet below a mountaintop, in order to avoid interference from cosmic rays. An indigenously made prototype miniature-scale detector is already in operation. This design will be scaled up to huge proportions in the final version, which will be the world’s most massive magnetic detector – weighing about 50,000 tons! The huge detector will also be made entirely indigenously.

ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) is an international mega science and engineering project that is under construction in southern France. ITER is an experimental nuclear fusion reactor that will advance the science and technology of fusion power for eventual commercialization. It is the world’s largest tokamak. The mega device will employ magnetic confinement to a superhot hydrogen plasma at 150 million degrees in order to fuse together deuterium and tritium (heavier forms of hydrogen) to form helium, resulting in a release of a huge amount of energy. Fusion power is envisaged to generate clean and virtually inexhaustible amounts of electricity. The nuclear fusion process will also be inherently safe, as very small quantity of reactants will be used at a time. The reaction will automatically stop safely and immediately the moment fuel runs out.

India – A proud partner in mega-science projects
India has been a proud collaborator in all of the mega-science projects described above through national premier research institutions and participation of local industry partners in the mega projects.

Come and be amazed!
Now be amazed by peeking into the world’s largest and cutting-edge mega-science projects based on international collaborations, brought to your doorstep through a first-of-its-kind public outreach initiative ‘Vigyan Samagam’ – a multi-venue mega-science exhibition. The mega science exhibition is organized by Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Department of Science & Technology (DST), in association with National Council of Science Museums (NCSM), which will host two-month-long exhibitions each at its Science Centres in four cities – Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Kolkata. The exhibitions will be held between May 2019 and March 2020. And imagine, now you can experience the thrill of these endeavours yourself!
Come visit Vigyan Samagam and dive into mega science the easy way and get to know about India’s contribution to world’s largest international science projects.
For details, visit the Vigyan Samagam website at https://www.vigyansamagam.in/
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