Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sex, Drugs and Physics

Who said scientists were boring? When particle physicist John Ellis, winner of the Maxwell Medal, Paul Dirac Prize and member of the Royal Society lost a bet over a pint to fellow Canadian Melissa Franklin, first woman to get tenure in physics at Harvard (and on the side DJ) she dared him to include the word "penguin" in his next publication. From the dates, she must have been a grad student at the time. From wikipedia:

"Mary K. [Gaillard], Dimitri [Nanopoulos] and I first got interested in what are now called penguin diagrams while we were studying CP violation in the Standard Model in 1976... The penguin name came in 1977, as follows.

In the spring of 1977, Mike Chanowitz, Mary K and I wrote a paper on GUTs predicting the b quark mass before it was found. When it was found a few weeks later, Mary K, Dimitri, Serge Rudaz and I immediately started working on its phenomenology. 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. 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."


Anonymous said...

This is why geeks should stay away from drugs.

Anonymous said...

I disagree, this is why geeks should do drugs.

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