To hypothesize that Albert Einstein was wrong in the case of superluminous particles was itself sufficient to make the celebrated physicist Professor E.C George Sudarshan world famous. Born on September 16, 1931 as the second son of E.I Chandy at Pallam, in Kottayam District, he generated special interest in Physics when he was studying in CMS College at Kottayam, Kerala. He graduated from Madras Christian College, took his MA from University of Madras and PhD from the University of Rochester. He was one of the world’s most important scientists and was a high-ranking physicist at the University of Texas where he continued his innovative Physics research. V- A theory, Sudarshan Glauber representation, superluminous particles called Tachyons, quantum zeno effect, etc. are some of his major contributions to Physics. When I met him at Bharath hotel at Cochin in 2005 during the centenary celebrations of the Annus mirabilis of Albert Einstein ,he seemed to be shaken by the attitude of the Nobel committee in not considering his important contribution for the award of the Nobel prize even though others have been awarded the dream recognition based on the ideas developed using Prof. Sudarshan’s findings. He is the first Malayalee to reach so far. He was nominated for the coveted Nobel Prize at least six times . A remarkable feat very few can boast of. When I went for a lecture in The Physics Depaartment at CMS college, I was thrilled by the thought that I am lecturing at the place where the celebrated scientist was once a student. I mentioned about my thought during the lecture and the students and lecturers too seemed to be thrilled by that.
The inquiry into the nature of the ‘heat’ led him to the depths of physics. Books from the CMC college library were of great help. After studying at the Madras Christian College and University of Madras, he was involved in Physics research at the Institute of Fundamental Research in Birmingham. Later he studied the nucleus for the cause of radioactivity. He served in Rochester University, Syracuse University, Indian Institute of Science, and Institute of Mathematical Sciences,. Sudarshan has been awarded with the Padma Bhushan ,CV Raman Award, Bose Medal, Third World Academy of Science Award and Kerala State Science and Technology Award. He was American Physical Society Fellow, Indian Academy of Sciences Fellow and has published over 500 scientific papers. Sudarshan conducted research on the weak force of the nucleus. He did not present his studies at one of the celebrated Rochester Physics conference. One summer, his doctoral advisor Robert Marshak arranged a lunch with Scientists Murray Gell- Mann, Leona Marshall, Ronald Bryan, AH Wapstra and others at a Santa Monica restaurant. Sudarshan was asked to give a report on the work on weak interactions beginning with a survey of the crucial experimental results which were conducted at CERN lab at Geneva Gell-Mann was very appreciative of the presentation . The choice of the interaction that Marshak and Sudarshan required for crucial experiments proved to be wrong. Later these experiments were again conducted at CERN confirming Sudarshan’s findings.
That September Sudarshan went to join Julian Schwinger at Harvard as a postdoctoral fellow. Nobody there in the theory group knew anything about the developments in weak interaction, nor did they care. But Sheldon Glashow told about a manuscript written by Murray Gell-Mann and Richard Feynman postulating a V-A form for beta decay that was submitted to the Physical Review.
Marshak had previously presented this study information to one of the scientists. Sudarshan called Professor Marshak on the phone, but he assured that the priority to be protected by the Rochester preprint and by the conference presentation. But nobody saw or heard this study. That was a mistake since most people would not acknowledge having seen or heard of his work. Anyone who read Sudarshan’s paper and the paper by Gell-Mann and Richard Feynman could not fail to notice the essential difference. The priority of ECG Sudarshan in this finding was ignored. He use to tell that ‘You can wake up a sleeping person, but you cannot do anything about a person who pretends to be asleep’. Feynman and Gell-mann were awarded Nobel prize for this finding.
Sudarshan has also contributed to Quantum Optics is the study of radiation and matter in the optical wavelength domain, where sophisticated advances in laser technology enable tests of fundamental physical questions with unprecedented precision. Optical probes of coherent states of atoms and photons permit new insights into questions about the basic foundations of quantum mechanics and are leading to concrete realization of futuristic applications such as quantum computing. He has guided around 30 students to gain PhD. The hypothetical subatomic particles called Tachyons whose velocity always exceeds that of light was proposed by Professor Sudarshan. The existence of the Tachyon, though not experimentally established, appears consistent with the theory of relativity, which was originally thought to apply only to particles traveling at or less than the speed of light. Just an ordinary particle such as an electron can exist only at speeds less than that of light, so a Tachyon could exist only at speeds above that of light, at which point its mass would be real and positive. Upon losing energy, a Tachyon would accelerate; the faster it traveled, the less energy it would have.
According to E.C.G. Sudarshan, special particles called Tachyons can move travel faster than light. Physicist Gerald Feinberg even gave them a name, tachyons. It was Albert Einstein who put forward the idea that nothing can move faster than the speed of light. But Tachyons were superluminous particles. It has been suggested that the existence of these particles can not be ruled out. The physics of tomorrow may be based on the discovery of these particles. The scientific world is still searching for these particles. Theory of relativity by Albert Einstein has established the speed of light as the highest speed allowed. When Sudarshan was at the University of Rochester, he pondered about what happens to energy and momentum when a particle travels faster than light. Sudarshan saw that energy and momentum could be made real by taking rest mass to be imaginary for such particles. The second difficulty of the traveling ‘backward in time’ of such a particle was solved by the interchange of the emission and absorption of the particle. Along with a graduate student, V. K. Deshpande, Sudarshan wrote a short paper .It came back from Physical Review since a referee rejected it, saying it was incorrect. Two years later, after Sudarshan joined the University of Rochester he rewrote the paper and got it published it in American Journal of Physics. It attracted a lot of attention.
To date, no tachyons have been detected. However, tachyons arise naturally in string theories but are suppressed or ignored. The role of tachyons in cosmology was investigated by Jayant.V.Narlikar and ECG Sudarshan. They concluded that any primordial tachyons would have vanished long ago. Sudarshan- Glauber representation was another important work which led to Roy Glauber winning the Nobel and here again ECG Sudarshan was unfortunately avoided. During a talk at Maharajas college in 2005 he mentioned that one should keep such intellectual achievements private till the time they are safe to make public. He points out the examples of JC Bose who lost to Marconi on the find of radio and SN Bose whose findings were neutralised by Albert Einstein naming Bose Enistein statistics and Bose Einstein condensate. C V Raman succeded because he kept his studies as secret and revealed only after the publication in reputed journals. Prof ECG Sudarshan undoubtedly was a world class physicist. Nobel committee has shamed the science community by denying the coveted Nobel to this important physicist.
(The author is a popular science writer and freelance researcher)....