SMUT’S HUNTING A PLATYPUS


“Smut,” I said, “you are a truly amazing dog. It took you a while, but your dogged persistence in searching for the Higgs Boson paid off!” Smut, my black Labrador retriever, was sitting contentedly in his favorite easy chair, looking deep in thought, which meant to me that he was contemplating particle physics.

“Wasn’t really that amazing,” he said, looking up and taking a slow puff on his cigar. After adjusting his fez, he said, “It just takes a lot of concentration, and I’m uniquely designed for intense concentration. You’ve watched me in retriever mode often, so you know what I mean. By the way, good pun.”

“What pun?” I asked.

“Never mind,” he replied. “It’ll come to you.”

“Well, congratulations are in order anyway. And after spending years on the Higgs, and particularly after your cancer surgery in January, you deserve to, ah, lead a dog’s life for the rest of your time.”

Ignoring my pun, he looked at me reproachfully and said, “Can’t do it, sport. If I only have a little time left, then I have to really concentrate to find the platypus.” He straightened his smoking jacket and took another puff of his cigar, slowly exhaling the smoke away from me so as not to blow it in my face.

“What? What are you talking about?”

“The platypus particle, of course.”

“What’s that,” I said, clueless as to what he was talking about.

“Well,” he continued, “you know about leptons and hadrons, don’t you?” looking at me expectantly.

“No. Should I?”

“Yes, you should. I’ll explain.”

He crossed his paws and proceeded to explain in depth until I was completely lost in a morass of leptons, quarks, hadrons, positive charges, negative charges, and other mysterious terms I can’t remember. Finally, he appeared to be at the end of his baffling “explanation.”

“So, a particle could exist that is a bit like both leptons and quarks: a leptoquark,” the old dog finished, with a look of satisfaction at having enlightened me.

“Wait a minute, I said, I thought you were talking about leptons and hadrons.”

“You don’t listen, do you?” he replied, irritated that I had not understood. “I already explained that a quark is the basic building block of hadrons. Keep your car on the highway!”

“Oh, sorry,” I apologized, still baffled.

He calmed down a bit, sat back in the chair and tapped the ash from his cigar into an ashtray. “So discovering a leptoquark would be like discovering a platypus, a mammal that’s furry somewhat like a beaver, but that lays eggs like a duck. See?”

No, I didn’t really understand that leptoquark stuff, but I can see that now he’s going to be intent on retrieving a platypus, something I think is very odd for a Labrador. I just hope he doesn’t try to use my credit card to buy a ticket to Australia.

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