Dr. Richter’s Obituary

in Obituaries by

“Burton Richter, a Nobel winner for Plumbing Matter, dies at 87.”
I was reading the obituaries out loud at the breakfast table.
“I know about the Nobel for Literature and the Nobel for Chemistry,” said my wife,
“But I never heard of a Nobel for Plumbing Matter before.”
“Well,” I explained, “It is awarded primarily for innovative techniques in pipes and valves,
but it can also go to outstanding achievement in filters and spigots and even nozzles.”
“No,” said she, “that sounds like Plumbing Devices.
I think Plumbing Matter means the stuff that’s inside like hot water and cold water and fluoridated water
and the myriad varieties of sewage and waste products too.”
I agreed that that made sense and she was probably right but
on further reading I learned that Burton Richter’s Nobel was actually for discovering
the J/psi.

The J/psi
is a subatomic particle comprising a charm quark and a charm antiquark revolving around each other.
It is detectable only in a superduper particle accelerator ring
that has electrons and positrons colliding at an energy level of 3.1 billion electron volts.
As far as I can tell, the J/psi has no practical application.
It will not bring world peace
or faster internet access
or unclog your drain.
And yet, I felt happy just knowing
that the J/psi exists
and that Burton Richter discovered it.

And so I finished my breakfast
and got up
and kissed the wife
and walked out the door
whistling a merry tune because,
there is nothing like a good obituary
to start the day off right,
is there?



Burton Richter, a Nobel winner for plumbing matter, dies at 87 [The New York Times]
Nobel Prize-winning Stanford physicist Burton Richter dies at 87 [Stanford News]
J/psi meson [Wikipedia]

Pesach Rotem was born and raised in New York and now lives in the village of Yodfat in northern Israel. He received his B.A. from Princeton University and his J.D. from St. John’s University. His poems have been published in more than a dozen literary journals including Chiron Review, Natural Bridge, and Voices Israel.

Image entitled “Quark” via Craig Persel.