THE acronym CERN is derived from French words “Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire” which was a provisional council for building a laboratory. The council comprising 12 European governments established CERN in 1954; an organization for nuclear research in a northwest suburb of Geneva on the Franco–Swiss border. The organization operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world where physicists and engineers probe the fundamental structure of the universe.
The CERN members include 22 countries mostly from Europe. The latest addition is Romania which got its membership on June 20, 2015. CERN has three associate members and five observer states. Observer states are Turkey, Russia, Japan, US and India. UNESCO and European Commission are also observer international organizations. Israel is the first and currently only non-European country granted full membership while Pakistan has become the first associate member of CERN among Asian countries on July 31, 2015. Pakistan signed an agreement to associate membership on 19 June 2014. In February 2015, a four member CERN technical team visited Pakistan as part of the evaluation process for the associate membership. The status of an associate member is also the pre-stage to full membership. Pakistan was introduced to CERN through Dr. Abdus Salam, the Pakistani Nobel Laureate. The three theoretical physicists, Dr. Abdus Salam from Pakistan, SheldonGlashow and Steven Weinberg from US formulated the theory of unification of the weak force and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles. As a result, they predicted the existence of weak neutral currents. In 1973, neutral currents were observed at CERN, verifying the theory. Later, Pakistan and CERN signed a cooperation agreement in 1994. The signature of several protocols followed this agreement and Pakistan contributed to building the CMS (The Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), a general purpose detector at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). It has a broad physics programme ranging from studying the Standard Model, including the Higgs boson, to searching for extra dimensions and particles that could make up dark matter. The CMS experiment is considered as one of the largest international scientific collaborations in history. The projects carried out by CERN are real and becoming the part of everyday life, eventually. CERN, with many other projects, is also developing mini “LHC” particles accelerator to treat cancer. Its small size and light weight also mean it is ideal to be set up in hospitals and produce radioactive isotopes for medical images. Small but powerful and with many potential uses, mini-RFQ will also be capable of accelerating alpha particles for advanced radiotherapy techniques, which many consider to be the new frontier in treatment of cancer.
ATLAS is one of two general purpose detectors constructed at the LHC. The experiment is designed to take advantage of the unprecedented energy available at the LHC and observe phenomena that involve highly massive particles which were not observable using earlier lower-energy accelerators. Although it has the same scientific goals as the CMS experiment, it uses different technical solutions and a different magnet system design. ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment) is one of seven detector experiments at LHC, and Pakistan contributes to the ALICE and CMS experiments. Pakistan is also involved in accelerator developments, making it an important partner for CERN. Pakistan still provides designing detection technology and personal support for the LHC’s maintenance.
Pakistan’s membership would also help in technology transfer in key areas of accelerator technology, radiofrequency technology, development of magnets and ion-beam optics, and cryogenics. The industry of Pakistan would be able to bid for CERN contracts for industrial collaboration in areas of advanced technology. Pakistani companies would also be able to cater to the organization’s demands individually by picking up tenders advertised by CERN for the growth of the industry and economy.
— The writer works for Islamabad Policy Research Institute.
Pakistan’s Membership of CERN | Gulshan Rafique