Sunday, June 22, 2014

Pakistan Accepted as Associate Member of CERN Ahead of India

"It would be embarrassing if Pakistan becomes an associate member of CERN before India", said eminent Indian scientist and Homi Bhabha Professor Bikash Sinha in early June, 2014. Well, it has happened this week. Pakistan is now an associate member of CERN, the world's largest and most prestigious center for science research.

Large Hadron Collider at CERN
Pakistan is the first Asian country and only the third in the world after Turkey and Serbia to be honored with CERN's associate membership. The status of associate member is a step before full membership. As an associate member, Pakistan  is entitled to attend open and restricted sessions of the organization.

The CERN was founded in 1953 by 12 European nations including Belgium, Denmark, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Yugoslavia. The organization was subsequently joined by Austria (1959), Spain (1961-1969, re-joined 1983), Portugal (1985), Finland (1991), Poland (1991), Czechoslovak Republic (1992), Hungary (1992), Bulgaria (1999) and Israel (2014). The Czech Republic and Slovak Republic re-joined CERN after their mutual independence in 1993. CERN now has 21 member states and Romania is a candidate to become a member state. Serbia is an associate member in the pre-stage to membership. "Observer" status allows non-member states to attend council meetings and to receive council documents, without taking part in the decision-making procedures of the organization. Over 600 institutes and universities around the world use CERN's facilities.

Pakistan's National Center for Physics (NCP) has been collaborating with CERN since 2000.  Pakistan's associate membership application was unanimously approved at a meeting of the CERN council on September 17 this year. The final approval came this week after a report of a CERN “fact-finding mission” to Pakistan in February 2014 was accepted.

CERN is leading the most high-profile effort to find "God Particle" about 300 ft below ground in a tunnel at the French-Swiss border. Buried there is a massive particle accelerator and super collider called LHC (Large Hadron Collider) run by CERN (European Organization of Nuclear Research), which has two beams of particles racing at nearly the speed of light in opposite directions and the resulting particles produced from collisions are being detected by massive detectors in the hope of experimentally finding the fundamental particle of which everything in the universe is built from: God Particle.

Dr. Hafeez Hoorani and President Musharraf

Among the world scientists working at CERN on LHC project is Professor Hafeez Hoorani of Pakistan's Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad. He is one of 27 Pakistani scientists at CERN. Hoorani has acknowledged that Pakistan government's support for Pakistani scientists' serious involvement at CERN materialized only after 1999, the year former President Musharraf's government assumed power. He also gives credit to Dr. Abdus Salam, Pakistan's only Nobel Laureate, for inspiring him and his colleagues to pursue serious scientific research. Here's what Professor Hoorani says about Pakistan's involvement in LHC and CERN:

When I first came to CERN, I was mainly working on technical things but became increasingly involved in political issues. In 1999, I went back to Pakistan to set up a group working on different aspects of the LHC project. There I had to convince my people and my government to collaborate with CERN, which was rather difficult, since nobody associated science with Switzerland. It is known as a place for tourism, for its watches, and nice places to visit.

However, Pakistan already had an early connection to CERN through the late Abdus Salam, the sole Nobel laureate from Pakistan in science and one of the fathers of the electroweak theory. CERN has been known to the scientific community of Pakistan since 1973 through the discovery of neutral currents which eventually led to the Nobel Prize for Salam. We are contributing much more now because of the students who worked with Salam, who know his theories and CERN, and who are now placed at highly influential positions within the government of Pakistan. They have helped and pushed Pakistan towards a very meaningful scientific collaboration with CERN. People now know that there is an organization called CERN. It took a long time to explain what CERN is about, and I brought many people here to show them, because they did not imagine CERN this way. Many people support us now which gives us hope…”

In addition to the 27 scientists, Pakistan has made material contributions to the tune of $10m. Pakistan signed an agreement with CERN which doubled the Pakistani contribution from one to two million Swiss francs. And with this new agreement Pakistan started construction of the resistive plate chambers required for the CMS muon system. While more recently, a protocol has been signed enhancing Pakistan’s total contribution to the LHC program to $10 million.

Pakistan has contributed the LHC in numerous ways including some of the following in particular:

1. Detector construction
2. Detector simulation
3. Physics analysis
4. Grid computing
5. Computational software development
6. Manufacturing of mechanical equipment
7. Alignment of the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) tracker using lasers
8. Testing of electronic equipment
9. Barrel Yoke: 35 Ton each feet made in Pakistan
10. Assembly of CF (Carbon Fiber) Fins for the Silicon Tracker’s TOB (Tracker Outer Barrel).
11. 245 of the 300 CMS chambers required were made in Islamabad.

Pakistan has had an impressive 50 per cent increase in the number of research publications during just the last two years, going up from 3,939 to 6,200. This has been the second highest increase worldwide, according to SCimago, the world's leading research database. The latest QS world rankings include 10 Pakistani universities among Asia's top 300.

Rise of research and publications at Pakistani universities began during Musharraf years when the annual budget for higher education increased from only Rs 500 million in 2000 to Rs 28 billion in 2008, to lay the foundations of the development of a strong knowledge economy, according to former education minister Dr. Ata ur Rehman. Student enrollment in universities increased from 270,000 to 900,000 and the number of universities and degree awarding institutions increased from 57 in 2000 to 137 by 2008. Government R&D spending jumped seven-fold as percentage of GDP from 0.1% of GDP in 1999 to 0.7% of GDP in 2007.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistani Scientists at CERN

10 Pakistani Universities Among Asia's Top 300

Genomics and Biotech Research in Pakistan

Human Capital Growth in Pakistan

Educational Attainment in Pakistan

Pakistan Human Development in Musharraf Years

Robotics Growth in Pakistan 


Riaz Haq said...

The world's top particle physics lab has admitted Pakistan as an associate member, a year after Israel was voted in as a full member.

Rolf Heuer, director general of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, says he signed a document Friday in Islamabad in the presence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that admits Pakistan if the government ratifies the associate membership.

Heuer said in a statement Friday that Pakistan has been "a strong participant" in CERN research since the 1990s ? and its inclusion in the lab's community serves other important purposes as well.

"Bringing nations together in a peaceful quest for knowledge and education is one of the most important missions of CERN," he said.

The status upgrade means nuclear-armed Pakistan will have more access and say in the research, and that it will be able to bid for contracts, but also that it must contribute more financially each year to the facility.

Pakistan and CERN signed a cooperation agreement in 1994 through which the nation has contributed to the lab's major experiments and become involved in developing CERN's particle accelerator.

Pakistan became a nuclear power in 1988. It routinely test-fires what it claims are indigenously developed missiles.

Last December, the governing council of CERN unanimously voted to accept Israel as the 21st full member, making it the first non-European country to achieve that status. Israel had gained observer status in 1991 and then became an associate member in 2011.

Riaz Haq said...

It's the birthday of Abdus Salam, who was born in 1926 in Jhang, a rural community in what is now Pakistan. Salam attended Punjab University and then Cambridge University, where he earned a PhD in 1952. In the 1960s, he and, independently, Sheldon Glashow and Steven Weinberg identified a symmetry that is shared in a class of field theories by the electromagnetic and weak nuclear forces. The symmetry implied that the two forces are really different manifestations of the same force, which Salam named electroweak. Glashow, Salam and Weinberg's unification also predicted the existence of two bosons: W, which mediates beta decay, and Z, which mediates the transfer of momentum, spin and energy in neutrino scattering. In 1973 a clear manifestation of the Z was discovered in CERN's Gargamelle bubble chamber. Six years later Glashow, Salam and Weinberg were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. Salam was also a founder of the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, which has supported the studies of physicists from the developing world since its founding in 1964.

Riaz Haq said...

Inside the life of #Pakistan’s first female string theorist. #Physics #Science #MIT

Tasneem Zehra Husain, Pakistan’s first female string theorist at the mere age of 26, recently published her new book Only the Longest Threads, which fictionalises major breakthroughs in physics through the minds of the people who lived in those periods of discovery, reports the MIT Technology Review Pakistan.

Husain is an eminent scientist, writer and educator who obtained her bachelor of science in mathematics and physics from Kinnaird College and a masters degree in physics from the Quaid-i-Azam University.

She was awarded a scholarship by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) to study in the field of High-Energy Physics in Trieste, Italy. Husain obtained her PhD in theoretical physics from Stockholm University, and then went on to do her post-doctoral research at Harvard University. While still a post-doc, she helped found the Lahore University of Managment Sciences (LUMS) School of Science and Engineering in Lahore, where she later taught as a faculty member.

Husain has represented Pakistan at the meeting of nobel laureates in Lindau, Germany. She has written extensively for several magazines and newspapers, including the award winning blog.

Tasneem Zehra Husain sat down with MIT Technology Review Pakistan to talk about her life, research and her aspirations for the field of theoretical Physics in the country, here is what she had to say.

A childhood surrounded by love, laughter and books
My parents were very supportive and involved in their children’s upbringing. My father is very hands-on so he would get involved in projects with us. My mother read to us since before we could even speak.

Growing up in the 80’s in Pakistan, there weren’t a lot of bookstores. There were maybe three or four like Anees book store or Iqbal book corner. They didn’t have a range of interesting things to read; only textbooks or classics were available. However, my parent’s had an extensive personal library of books at home and later my mother started the Alif Laila lending library when my brother and I were only one or two years old, so we grew up with books all around us.

Our parents would have to frequently bring home books to catalogue, so we saw them all the time and everywhere. We were encouraged to read voraciously and I think that was the main turning point for all of us.