Sunday, June 30, 2013

Four Quarks for Muster Mark

Came news the other day I heard on the radio out shopping that somebody had discovered a molecule-like thing with four quarks—whereas in physical reality, until recently anyway, the max was three, the minimum two, the three appearing in protons and neutrons, the two in pions and kaons in cosmic rays.

Reminded of that this morning, I went looking and found the story in a Nature press release here. The discovery was made at the Institute of High Energy Physics in Beijing by the Belle Collaboration using a particle collider in Tsukuba, Japan.

The name of this elementary particle was introduced by Murray Gell-Mann. He chose a line from James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, pleased by the number three; it is the number of quarks in every atom. The novel itself is written in the poetic wirr-warr that language is when it is heard—rather than read on paper. I’ve managed to find the actual quote (here), and it sounds to me like Mister Mark was buying beer—by the quart. But then my ears ain’t used to Irish-English:

      Three quarks for Muster Mark!
    Sure he hasn't got much of a bark
    And sure any he has it's all beside the mark.
    But O, Wreneagle Almighty, wouldn't un be a sky of a lark
    To see that old buzzard whooping about for uns shirt in the dark
    And he hunting round for uns speckled trousers around by Palmer-
        stown Park?
    Hohohoho, moulty Mark!
    You're the rummest old rooster ever flopped out of a Noah's ark
    And you think you're cock of the wark.
    Fowls, up! Tristy's the spry young spark
    That'll tread her and wed her and bed her and red her
    Without ever winking the tail of a feather
    And that's how that chap's going to make his money and mark!

Delights me when something really new happens in physics. I might even live long enough to see someone discover the missing graviton (see this earlier post on the subject).

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