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My Physics Professor is REALLY Weird

First semester, I had a physics class with Professor Melissa Franklin (the first female physicist to receive tenure at Harvard) who taught a class on Life at Low Reynold’s Number, or essentially life on the micro-scale as low Reynold’s number describes what happens when your mass is small in scale relative to viscosity (ie imagine trying to swim in a vat of tar and that gives you somewhat of an approximation of what your cells and bacteria experience). She was a very quirky professor, prone to making jokes about the French and was very laid back — it helped that our class was a very small size, and while in all honesty, the class was very disorganized, the interesting subject material and the fact that the class was so small and she was able to get to know most of us made the class kind of fun.

Well, courtesy of this link that Eric provided for me, I discovered just how quirky she is. While I had known she had been a successful high-energy physicist, I had no idea that:

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’.

Now, Eric, who knows more about high-energy physics than I do (which is not very hard) explains to me that these penguin diagrams are actually a special case of Feynman Diagrams, but regardless — very very very strange.

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