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Melissa Franklin and penguin diagrams June 20, 2006

Posted by dorigo in humor, language, personal, physics, science.

Upon reading Chapter four of Peter Woit's new book, "Not Even Wrong" (see http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/blog ) I came across a story I had heard in a couple different versions a few years ago. Here it is:

The story behind this seems to be that particle theorist John Ellis and experimentalist Melissa Franklin were playing darts one evening at CERN in 1977, and a bet was made that would require Ellis to insert the word "penguin" somehow into his next research paper if he lost. He did lose, and was having a lot of trouble working out how he would do this. Finally, 'the answer came to him when one evening, leaving CERN, he dropped by to visit some friends where he smoked an illegal substance'. While working on his paper later that night 'in a moment of revelation he saw that the diagrams looked like penguins'.

So if we find penguin diagrams in most B-physics papers, we all owe it to Melissa (see picture), who won the dart game….

It would be nice to end this post by saying "probably her biggest contribution to HEP", but unfortunately I cannot say that. Besides being a friend of mine, Melissa is a quite successful Physicist and a Harvard professor of Physics.


1. little miss demosthenes - June 20, 2006

aw, qué bonita.. penguins seem to appear everywhere in geekdom

look, i commented! zΩ! o_O


ps: if i have time i’ll go through your archive

2. physics musings » Blog Archive » Geometrically speaking - July 5, 2006

[…] Before leaving the subject of Feynman diagrams, let me mention two bits of diagrammatic folklore stolen from Peter Woit’s latest book. Naturally enough, recurring diagrams have got pet names over the years. The first one seems to have been the tadpole (for a diagram shaped, well, like a tadpole), coined by Sidney Coleman and resignedly accepted by the Physical Review editors after he proposed lollypop and spermion as alternatives. The second anecdote involves a diagram (depicted above) known as penguin since Melissa Franklin won a dart match over John Ellis: Tommaso Dorigo has recently recounted the story in his blog. […]

3. Jimbo - July 15, 2007

Has nobody noticed ? The diagram is in error !
One of the anti-Tops should be a Top (rev’d arrows !), and s or
s-bar should have the arrow reversed (depend’g on the direction of time). There may be other errors, but I’m too stoned to tell !

4. dorigo - July 15, 2007

yes, jimbo – the diagram is not accurate. I do not know who made it though. I forgot where I found it…


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[…] courtesy of this link that Eric provided for me, I discovered just how quirky she is. While I had known she had been a […]

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