27 May 2009

I'm so pumped...

I've been working on something for the last year or so, and I switched my master's thesis to this topic because that's where my passion was. So I've jumped head first in that project, essentially being in Limbo since last January as far as my master's degree is concerned. It's been an uphill fight to convince people that I knew what I was talking about, and that I've got original and pertinent material for my thesis.

In a nutshell, I'm proposing a new scheme to classify subatomic particles. The current scheme (adopted in 1986)[1] is so weird that it literally takes weeks to teach at the grad-level, is so complex that it's de facto impossible to memorize it, and is based on a fundamentally meaningless concept called isospin (we know this since 1964),[2] and which needs us to bend over backwards to accommodate it since 1974.[3]

I am (as I'm writing this) preparing an upcoming talk on the topic, which will be presented at CAPC2009 (Canadian Association of Physics Congress) in two weeks. Until tonight, I really only had a solution for half the scheme, and "ideas" (which were not all that elegant) to fix the other half. That talk will also be reviewed by my department this Friday and will essentially decide if I can keep doing my master's or not. I was fiddling with some tentative new rules and I came up with something so stunningly simple, so elegant, so physical, so natural... At first I was expecting my idea be published and read with a reaction similar to "Yeah that'd be nice, but it's not worth undoing 50 years of tradition", with the adoption of my idea as being nothing more than a fantasy. But what I've come up with is so damned simple I've now allowed myself to wonder if there is any way it won't be adopted.

So now I'm pumped, and I've got no doubts that I'll be able to finish my master's (of course, I could be wrong here, but that's my feeling right now). And while I'm still holding myself back from any preemptive celebrations of my master's success, or of the adoption of my idea (cause let's face it, I would be shit-canning 50+ years of tradition in a very conservative area of science, and such paradigm shift is rarely met with open-arms by the old coots who developed and grew up with the old one), it suddenly doesn't seem all that ludicrous anymore.

Notes & References

[1] M. Aguilar-Benítez et al. (Particle Data Group) (1986). "Review of Particle Properties". Physics Letters B 170 1
[2] The quark model shows that isospin looking meaningful is simply a consequence of the mass of up and down quarks being so similar.
[3] The discovery of the charm quark forces us to move away from isospin as a sound basis of nomenclature, the reasons are rather technical, but essentially it comes down to a unnatural choice of a linear combination of quarks as the basis of nomenclature rather than the natural choice of the individual quarks themselves.


  1. anonymous bosh31 May, 2009 16:21

    that's amazing to hear, man.

    how'd the review go?

  2. Any chance you're planning on expanding on this further here at some future date? If it's so simple I would love to learn more about it. Hopefully I'd even understand some of it--being an engineering undergrad and not a particle physicist, I don't dare hope for all. :)


  3. Yes I do plan to talk about it here eventually, but I just don't have the time right now with my talk coming up. Dunno when I'll have time, but it'll make it's way here eventually.