May 28, 2018

Lasting only a thousandth of a nanosecond, B mesons potentially provide a window onto new physics. Thanks to quantum uncertainty, their interiors roil with particles that flit in and out of existence and can affect how they decay. Any new particles tickling the innards of B mesons—even ones too massive for the LHC to create—could cause the rates and details of those decays to deviate from predictions in the standard model. It’s an indirect method of hunting new particles with a proven track record. In the 1970s, when only the up, down, and strange quarks were known, physicists predicted the existence of the charm quark by discovering oddities in the decays of K mesons (a family of mesons all containing a strange quark bound to an antiquark).

–Physicists detect whiff of new particle at the Large Hadron Collider,, by Adrian Cho.

Found that in a logbook that belonged to my brilliant black Labrador retriever, Smut, who died in 2014.

That precocious dog loved to dabble in particle physics, and was so good at it that he helped significantly in the detection of the Higgs boson in 2012. I should turn over his notes and files to the American Physical Society.

I’ll get around to it soon, but on this day I am remembering Smut’s less beneficial antics, like devouring a country ham I had carelessly left on the counter for 30 seconds before slicing and freezing it, or lapping up a tray of raw hamburgers ready for the grill, or stealing a pork chop from my plate while I was pouring a glass of tea, or…well, you get the picture.

In my recollection, I soon settled on one particularly egregious episode in which Smut not only incurred my wrath, but that of my neighbor, Chuck.

Occasionally, when his significant-other was working late, Chuck would invite me to eat venison stew with him (his significant other did not care for it), and we would enjoy it along with a bottle of red wine.

During one such meal on a cold winter night, we were continually restocking our bowls with ladles of stew from the pot, and our glasses with wine from the bottle, when we heard frenzied barking from outside, immediately joined by Chuck’s two dogs, who were patiently waiting below the table to lick our venison stew bowls (and perhaps our wine glasses). The ensuing ruckus demanded our attention. As the outside barking sounded as if it might be my other black Lab, Mischief, I volunteered to go outside and see what was going on. Chuck, worried for the safety of some equipment he had left on the carport, said he would go out with me.

We put on our heavy coats and gloves and I opened the back door and exited. As Chuck followed me out, a black form streaked through the open door into the kitchen, and with its nose pushed the door shut. Chuck turned and grabbed the door knob to return to the kitchen, only to find that the door was locked.

As we stood in the outside cold air, we looked through the kitchen-door glass to see that the stealthy black streak was none other than Smut, who was happily licking out of the pot the last of the venison stew, while behind me, Mischief was staring sadly at the kitchen door, realizing that she had been duped by Smut into being an accomplice in a plot for which she would derive no benefit.

My advice: If your dog shows any interest in particle physics, be very wary.