Quark's Jig

Elementary Particle Plush Toys! Down Quark, Up Quark, Strange Quark, Charm Quark, Bottom Quark, Top Quark, Muon, Tau, Z Boson, Electron-Neutrino, Muon-Neutrino, Tau-Neutrino, Neutron, Proton, Gluon, Graviton, W Boson, Dark Matter, Electron, Photon, Higgs Boson, and Tachyon

Physics Day

Apr 24

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

" -- Three quarks for Muster Mark!
Sure he has not got much of a bark
And sure any he has it’s all beside the mark."

~ Finnegan's Wake, James Joyce, 1939

Dancing physicists rejoice! It's Physics Day, the birthday of theoretical physicist Max Planck whose discovery of energy quanta won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918. It's rare that the actual circumstances of a word’s coinage is known, but in the world of particle physics, the intriguingly named quark has a detailed backstory. In 1963, when physicist Murray Gell-Mann proposed a name for his conception of an elementary particle of matter, smaller than a proton or a neutron, he chose a nonsense word which he pronounced “quork.” Some months later, he came across the lines from Joyce’s Finnegan's Wake which struck him as appropriate, especially since the hypothetical particles came in threes, and he adopted Joyce’s spelling for his “quork.” Joyce clearly meant quark to rhyme with Mark, bark, park, and Gell-Mann worked out a rationale for his own pronunciation and related meanings based on the vowel of the word quart: he told researchers at the Oxford English Dictionary that he imagined Joyce's line "Three quarks for Muster Mark" to be a variation of a pub owner's call of "Three quarts for Mister Mark." Gell-Mann also noted that the German word for the fresh soft cheese, 'quark' is also a colloquial term for “trivial nonsense.” In Joyce's use, it is seabirds giving "three quarks", akin to three cheers, "quark" having a meaning of the cry of a gull (probably onomatopoeia, like "quack" for ducks) and also a pun on the relationship between Munster and its provincial capital, Cork. The six types of quarks are currently termed up, down, strange, charm, top (formerly "truth"), and bottom (formerly "beauty")! ⚛️

Quark's Jig

The Standard Model of particle physics is the theory describing three of the four known fundamental forces (the electromagnetic, weak, and strong interactions, and not including gravity) in the universe, as well as classifying all known elementary particles. It was developed in stages throughout the latter half of the 20th century, through the work of many scientists around the world, with the current formulation being finalized in the mid-1970s upon experimental confirmation of the existence of quarks. Since then, confirmation of the top quark (1995), the tau neutrino (2000), and the Higgs boson (2012) have added further credence to the Standard Model.


Many physicists enjoy the intricacy of Scottish Country Dancing, and The Silk and Thistle Scottish Country Dancing Club, responsible for this dance, are part of the Chicago Branch of the Royal Scottish, and dances at the Kuhn Village Barn on the Fermilab site.  Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), located just outside Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago, is a United States Department of Energy national laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics.


Fermilab hosts neutrino experiments, such as MicroBooNE (Micro Booster Neutrino Experiment), ICARUS (Imaging Cosmic and Rare Underground Signals), NOνA (NuMI Off-Axis νe Appearance) and Muon g-2. 


Fermilab hosts public projects and cultural events as well.  It is home to a native prairie ecosystem restoration project, public science lectures and symposia, classical and contemporary music concerts, folk dancing and arts galleries!


And should all this dancing make you a bit peckish, you may want to try your hand at the namesake "quark" soft cheese and use it in traditional recipes or those which call for cream cheese, cottage cheese, or ricotta!  Click the quark tarta for ideas! 

Quark's Jig
Quark's Jig

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