There’s a new issue of Symmetry magazine out. It is a bimonthly magazine about particle physics put out by SLAC and Fermilab, and often has interesting and informative articles. But, even though I generally read the whole thing when it comes out, I’ve always had a feeling that, somehow, there was something missing. This latest issue kind of explains why.
In a very well-done article about the BaBar experiment and B-physics, John Ellis is quoted, explaining the origin of the name “penguin diagram” as follows:
That summer, there was a student at CERN, Melissa Franklin, who is now an experimentalist at Harvard. One evening, she, I, and Serge went to a pub, and she and I started a game of darts. We made a bet that if I lost I had to put the word penguin into my next paper. She actually left the darts game before the end, and was replaced by Serge, who beat me. Nevertheless, I felt obligated to carry out the conditions of the bet.
For some time, it was not clear to me how to get the word into this b quark paper that we were writing at the time…. Later…I had a sudden flash that the famous diagrams look like penguins. So we put the name into our paper, and the rest, as they say, is history.
If you look up the original source of this, you find a bit more of an explanation of where that “sudden flash” came from. Here’s the full second paragraph:
For some time, it was not clear to me how to get the word into this b quark paper that we were writing at the time. Then, one evening, after working at CERN, I stopped on my way back to my apartment to visit some friends living in Meyrin where I smoked some illegal substance. Later, when I got back to my apartment and continued working on our paper, I had a sudden flash that the famous diagrams look like penguins. So we put the name into our paper, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Lots of other articles worth reading in the magazine, including one by an undergraduate at Humboldt State in California about taking a science course that explained how physical reality is stranger than any fiction, ending with the anthropic principle and the theory of evolutionary cosmology. The course is called Cosmos, and you can check out its web-site. Maybe I’m wrong, but I get the impression that John Ellis is not the only physicist out there who may have at one time or other sampled the agricultural products of Humboldt County…