Shiva Statue at CERN Part 2
This is Part 2 of Shiva.
After I completed the previous chapter of Shiva, the Lord of Divine Dance (Part 1), I came across a very interesting fact. There is a statue of Shiva at CERN, home to the Large Hadron Collider and one of the premiere research institutes located in Geneva. In fact, a two-meter-tall statue of the dancing Shiva was presented by the Indian government to CERN in 2004.
When I found this, I became very curious about the relationship between these two entities, and I needed to find why this happened. What was or is a relationship between Shiva, a Hindu deity of India and the European Center for Research in Particle Physics in Switzerland? An interesting question, isn’t it?
Initially, these two things did not seem on the surface, at least to me, to match or fit. Thus, I needed to go deeper to find the relationship between a Hindu god and the most advanced physics research center. The answer to this question may shed light on a possible reason why the world’s premier research institute received a statue of Shiva.
I have already explained about Shiva in my previous chapter. If you have not read that chapter, please do so first. I will start this chapter with my research on what CERN is all about. If you hear the name CERN, some of the readers will recall the large-scale collider. We need to find more about this institution to explain the relationship to Shiva, the Hindu deity.
In short, CERN is the European Organization for Nuclear Research and stands for Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire. In fact, it operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world. Established in 1954, the organization is based in a northwest suburb of Geneva, Switzerland and has 23 member states.
On its website, CERN’s (https://home.cern/) mission can be found; “to probe the fundamental structure of the particles that make up everything around us.” They do the probing by using the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments including the largest hadron collider. Its website states that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the most powerful particle accelerator in the world. A test magnet reached a peak magnetic field of 13.5 tesla. The tesla (symbol T) is the unit used to measure the strength of magnetic fields and one tesla is equal to 10,000 (104) gauss. The experiment facility is a giant circular tunnel and with superconducting magnets with a number of accelerating structures to boost the energy of the particles along the way. The tunnel is 17 miles (27 kilometers) long, and between 50 and 175 meters below the ground. It started up in September of 2008.
If you wish to learn more about the collider, check this link: https://home.cern/science/accelerators/large-hadron-collider
In the previous chapter, we learned that the statue of Shiva symbolizes his cosmic dance of creation and destruction. Now we discover that the research center was created to probe the fundamental structure of the particles. Maybe we are getting some hints about the relationship. One interesting fact is that the Indian government presented the statue of Shiva to CERN to celebrate the research center’s long association with India. Very interesting. Now we need to look at the history of Indian government’s involvement at CERN.
According to its website, India and CERN signed a Cooperation Agreement in 1991, setting priorities for scientific and technical cooperation. However, India’s relationship with the Organization dates back much further. Initially through cooperation with the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, whose physicists have been actively participating in experiments at CERN since the 1960s. They were later joined by scientists from the Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology in the 1990s. In 1996, the Indian AEC (Atomic Energy Commission) agreed to take part in the construction of the LHC, and to contribute to other major experiments with Tier-2 centers in Mumbai and Kolkata. In recognition of these substantial contributions, India was granted Observer status to the CERN Council in 2002.
Now I can see the heavy involvement of the Indian physicists at CERN. Obviously for this reason, the Indian government decided to present a gift to the institute in 2004. This may have resulted in India becoming an Associate Member of CERN in 2017. This is a big achievement for India and I am happy to find this. At the same time, I still needed to find why the gift had to be a statue of Shiva. The Indian government could have presented something else which is very Indian such as a statue of an elephant or a model of Taj Mahal. Why did it have to be Shiva? Was it by chance or on purpose?
There is a special plaque next to the presented statue. This may give us a hint to explain the significance of the metaphor of Shiva’s cosmic dance. The plaque is engraved with the quotation from Fritjof Capra (age 81 years, 1939 to present). Who is this guy? Most of us may not know him even though he is a famous scientist. He is an Austrian born American physicist and systems theorist. If you hear the title of his book, The Tao of Physics (1975), you may remember hearing this. This book was pretty popular in the late 70s and the 80s. Even I, amateur in science, had heard the title of this book. I find the subtitle of the book is very interesting as it implies a bridge between two separate worlds; An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism. The Tao of Physics. In this book he claims that both physics and metaphysics reach mysteriously to the same knowledge.
Here is the entire quote from the plaque:
“Hundreds of years ago, Indian artists created visual images of dancing Shivas in a beautiful series of bronzes. In our time, physicists have used the most advanced technology to portray the patterns of the cosmic dance. The metaphor of the cosmic dance thus unifies ancient mythology, religious art and modern physics.”
Isn’t this interesting? Physicist Capra further explained in his book, The Tao of Physics: “The Dance of Shiva symbolizes the basis of all existence. At the same time, Shiva reminds us that the manifold forms in the world are not fundamental, but illusory and ever-changing. Modern physics has shown that the rhythm of creation and destruction is not only manifest in the turn of the seasons and in the birth and death of all living creatures, but is also the very essence of inorganic matter.”
He further states, “According to quantum field theory, the dance of creation and destruction is the basis of the very existence of matter. Modern physics has thus revealed that every subatomic particle not only performs an energy dance, but also is an energy dance; a pulsating process of creation and destruction. For the modern physicists then, Shiva’s dance is the dance of subatomic matter, the basis of all existence and of all-natural phenomena.” Wow! What do you think?
Here is an interesting reflection ofWriting the statue. The quote below is by Aidan Randle-Conde, a young scientist who worked there:
“So, in the light of day, when CERN is teeming with life, Shiva seems playful, reminding us that the universe is constantly shaking things up, remaking itself and is never static. But by night, when we have more time to contemplate the deeper questions Shiva literally casts a long shadow over our work, a bit like the shadows on Plato’s cave. Shiva reminds me that we still don’t know the answer to one of the biggest questions presented by the universe, and that every time we collide the beams, we must take the cosmic balance sheet into account.”
Late Carl Sagan was the one who introduced this idea in the West, through his TV show, ‘Cosmos’. He had said: “Hindu religion is the only one of the world’s great faiths dedicated to the idea that the cosmos itself undergoes an immense, indeed an infinite number of deaths and rebirths. It is the only religion in which the time scales correspond, no doubt, by accident, to those of modern scientific cosmology. Its cycles run from our ordinary day and night to a day and night of Brahma 8.64 billion years long. Longer than the age of the Earth or the Sun and about half of the time since the Big Bang. And there are much longer time scales still.”
Interestingly, not everyone was happy with the statue of Shiva at CERN. The institute has been accused of playing God by conservative Christians, particularly when they identified the Higgs boson in 2012 and it was named after physicist Peter Higgs. In 2013, Higgs and Francois Englert were awarded the Nobel Prize for their theoretical predictions. In mainstream media, the Higgs boson has often been called the “God particle”. However, this nickname is strongly disliked by many physicists, including Higgs himself. Some accused this statue as ‘The Destroyer’. The CERN management tried to justify having the statue as India was one of the institute’s observer states (which is true), and it represented CERN’s multiculturalism (I can tell they tried very hard).
Let me finish this chapter with a quote from Aldous Leonard Huxley (1894 – 1963), an English writer and philosopher who wrote nearly fifty books.
Huxley stated, “When you think of the staggering symbols that the Indians produced, I mean, the Dancing Shiva for example, we have never produced anything as comprehensive as this. The Dancing Shiva, those little bronze statues, it is the Shiva with four arms dancing with one foot raised. Well, I go into the details, they are really quite extraordinary.”
Here is the link to his interview in 1961 in London mentioning about Shiva. It is about 7minutes long and interesting to listen to.
The statue captures Shiva performing the Tandava, a dance believed to be the source of the cycle of creation, preservation and destruction. I know CERN’s experiments are to create its own, but small ‘big bang’ or creation. Will it bring us a key or answer for the preservation? Or will it cause any negative effect that may lead the world to its destruction?