Monday, April 05, 2010

Julie and the Particle Zoo Factory

Recently, I was invited to tour the particle factory at the Particle Zoo. It was as if I discovered a golden ticket in my chocolate bar. I pinched myself thinking: "I would soon get to see where the cute photon and proton plushies are produced?"
After a song and a dance, I packed my bags for sunny L.A.
Veruca Salt and I waited at the gates of the Particle Zoo factory for Julie Peasley, the Particle Zoo keeper. She took us on a brief ride in a glass elevator -er- stairs to her cute studio.

Studio? What? Wow! There wasn't a plushie fountain or plushie river or lickable wall paper in sight. Better! The place was decorated in Julie's unique creative style. And this creativity comes through in her particles. Ask any physicist to draw a picture of a subatomic particle and you'll either a bunch of dots or equations. Or at most:

However, Julie can visualize and sew together particles that previously only existed on paper or in the world's largest experiments. And they don't all look like ball bearing on springs! They each smile with a different personality indicative of their particle properties. She even creates plushies for particles that don't exist yet (or rather haven't been discovered or never will be).

Here are the photos of my visit to the Particle Zoo factory:
(please excuse the low res camera phone quality)

Julie showing us her office where thinks up what subatomic particles look like -the kind that you can put next to your pillow and protect you from dark matter demons.

These are the templates from which all subatomic particles are created.
In order to not violate the laws of physics and conserve energy, Julie must sew an anti particle for every particle that she creates. In fact her last intern violated this rule and was taken away by plushie Oompa Loompas.

Even the template for the Higg's Boson was very heavy. The scale in the photo only reads up to 114GeV!

The particle ingredients. So far the only evidence of string theory. Ok, sorry about that -couldn't resist. BTW, is that a tomato pin cushion you ask? Why yes. Yes it is.

It's a LaserFest 442 nm photon!

Julie demonstrating how she sews life into a little down quark. She whispers into its little quarky ear: "when you grow up, you are going to make some fermion very proud."

After those inspiring words, we wiped the tears from our eyes and concluded our visit to the Particle Zoo factory. Instead of a glass elevator exit, Julie took us on a tour of the Griffith Observatory. Observing the cosmos was the perfect end to an afternoon of playing with the infinitesimal.
(or near infinitesimal)

1 comment:

  1. I saw a toy last month in DC at the APS meeting...for the Sakurai Prize