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Jaimon Joseph
Saturday , August 27, 2011 at 12 : 41

Indian school kids at the Big Bang experiment


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Our parents' genes probably decide how intelligent we can be. But our teachers most definitely influence how much we love our studies.

Raka Dona Raymandal was an all India topper at the Bachelor of Science university exams in 1991. Ten years later, she's a physics teacher at Rajghat Besant School in Varanasi. Most teachers break a sweat simply trying to finish the syllabus in time for the exams. Raymandal however takes her students to Switzerland.

Five students, two parents and Raymandal are now back in India, after their trip to CERN - home to the Big Bang Experiment. It's a peek into the mysteries of our universe, an attempt to find out how the world was born and why it still exists, when conventional physics believes it should have self destructed long ago.

It's the largest, most expensive machine ever built. The fastest race track on Earth, with sub-atomic particles whizzing around at the speed of light. It's the emptiest place in the solar system, an artificially created ultra-high vacuum.

It's designed to be colder than outer space. Yet, when the particles inside collide, it becomes one of the hottest spots in the galaxy, 100,000 times hotter than the heart of the Sun.

It's rigged to the most powerful supercomputers on the planet. Its one of the places that gave birth to the World Wide Web. And now, it's host to a bunch of excited school kids from India. Who get a chance to quiz Nobel Prize winning scientists and watch them at work. Thanks to the tireless efforts of their school teacher.

If you were in school, would you be inspired after a trip like that? It wasn't free though. Twenty four students wanted to go. Only five were able to raise enough money. But what I was struck by was the sheer audacity and resilience of their teacher.

Raymandal wrote emails to everyone conceivable - from Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, to the science and technology ministry, to the French and Swiss embassy, imploring financial help for her students. She badgered the regional passport office for visas and permits, reached out to journalists to cover the trip.

She was guided and assisted at every step by Dr Archana Sharma. The only Indian scientist on the staff of CERN, she has worked continuously for more than 23 years at CERN. Sharma has helped many Indian college students intern at the Big Bang Experiment. But this was her first time working with students this young.

Aditi Gunja, Shivangi, Eeshan Singh Jaiswal, from Class X, Eesha Das Gupta from Class XI and Shanu Vashishtha from Class XII were the first Indian school students to have the privilege of visiting CERN. May their tribe increase.


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More about Jaimon Joseph

I've always been scared around gadgets and software. And in awe of people who're good with them. After three years of science and tech reporting though, I think I'm starting to get the hang of things. Before this, I covered automobiles, health, careers and business, for seven years. Nice thing about technology is, it lets me poach into all those fields once in a while. I love this job. But I'm not sure how I managed to land it. I did my BA in Advertising from Delhi College of Arts and Commerce and MA in Journalism from Madurai Kamaraj University. I wanted to be a cartoonist, a guitar player and a footballer but sucked in all those fields. I can play the flute and harmonica though. And I have an interest in machines that move - it was cars and bikes earlier but considering there's nothing revolutionary happening there, it's military stuff now. I'm the sort who drools over figures. Not the 36-24-36 types. But top speed, acceleration, fuel consumption, drag co-efficient. I drive an Alto though. And usually take the Metro to work.
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