Hunting of the Quark

by Jonathan Cannon, with thanks to Washington University physicist Mike Ogilvie and his grad student Joyce Myers, and with sincere apologies to Lewis Carrol, author of The Hunting of the Snark.

‘Twas a bright brillig morning, eleven o’clock
When the Ogilvie came to Wash U
With a graduate student (shirt speckled with chalk
and eyes glistening gaily with dew).

The student, enthralled by the models and theories
Upon which she’d soon leave her mark
Beleaguered the O with a gaggle of queries
About the illustrious Quark.

Is it massive? she asked.  Does is carry a charge?
and she searched for a nail to chew on.
Are the Top Quark and Bottom Quark equally large?
And what in the world is a Gluon?

Some questions the Ogilvie chose to ignore
and some met with his gentle reproaches
Until they arrived at a room whose decor
Comprised yellowing desktops and roaches.

Just the place for a Quark!  the Ogilvie cried
As he surveyed the dated machinery.
Just the place for a Quark, I declare it with pride
And the place has such beautiful scenery!

The journey on which you will shortly embark
Is your mission, your station, your passion!
You must write me a program to hunt down the Quark
in the following Byzantine fashion:

You must overrelax it and lull it to sleep
To create a false sense of security
And then sweep it away with one million sweeps
To provide for statistical purity.

As the boundaries are all periodically sealed
The Quark will have soon reappeared
(But will only return to ground state on a field
That’s first been sufficiently smeared.)

You must tangle its ankles in Polyakov loops
‘Till its symmetry’s quite undermined
Then add staples until you have fixed all its groups
For it must not become deconfined.

An eight-by-twelve lattice should keep it at bay
While you fit it with curves exponential,
Then you’ll sample its trace in the usual way
To determine its latent potential.

The student was so comprehensively flustered
And dumbfounded by the absurd
That she stood for ten minutes before she had mustered
The courage to utter a word.

Once her pupils had shrunk to their usual sizes
She stammered out, “What did you say?”
But the Ogilvie, constantly full of surprises,
Had vanished completely away.

The student’s resolve, though so recently shattered,
Was presently back on the mend
And her thoughts reconverged on the one thing that mattered:
The Quark she would soon apprehend.

The grad student, taking one last look behind her
Dove into her research head-first
And when he returned, the poor O could not find her
For she was quite fully immersed.

They dredged all the servers and searched until dark
With a party of seventy men
But they never found out if she met with a Quark
For she never was heard from again.