Oprah: Hello. Welcome to the show. (Applause) The late T.S. Eliot once said, "Man cannot bear too much reality." Today, in the 1980's, we face a number of realities, realities I have tried to address on this program. (Applause) Death in the family, the decline of morality, and today, the decay of subatomic particles, a topic we often forget because we can't see it happening, but a phenomenon all of us should know more about. I welcome today's guest, a proton, who will be speaking to us via satellite from the Fermi Lab, just outside the Chicago area. (Applause) Hello, Ms. Proton and thank you for agreeing to tell us your story. This is, as far as I know, the first talk-show interview with a subatomic particle in the history of broadcasting. (Applause)

Ms. Proton: Thanks for inviting me to the show. My story is a simple one, but not an insignificant one.

O: Well, let's hear it. You are now a proton, but I understand that you were once a neutron. That sounds a little confusing to me. I want to know, and I'm sure the studio audience shares my curiosity, how that happened... What was the process like? Tell us everything.

P: Until recently I was, as you said, a neutron, one of 8 neutrons and 6 protons inside the nucleus of a carbon atom.

O: And what was that like?

P: It was awful. Carbon 14 is an isotope. It was a very unstable situation. All of us wanted to form a lighter, more stable nucleus. I wanted out. I had always felt different, like I didn't belong.

O: Oh, I know how that feels, honey. So, how did you react to that situation?

P: Well, in a fraction of a second I decided to convert.

O: Spontaneously? Just like that? Without any outside influences or external forces?

P: That's right. It was beta decay.

O: But where did you get the energy? I hardly have enough energy to get out of bed in the morning. I mean it must have taken a lot of energy to convert from one species to another!

P: Believe it or not, it was easy. It was radioactive decay. There was no outside supply of energy. It all came from within the nucleus. It was perfectly natural. ............


            George Gluon sighed in exhaustion. "I'd almost rather see this happy nucleus fall apart than continue listening to them whine," he thought grumpily. He shook his head (at least, what he liked to think of as a head). "No, I've got to try and do some good here. I'm a strong force mediator, and it's my job. I'll see if throwing my weight around does any good."

            He started to speak, and then remembered that he had no mass to speak of (or charge, for that matter). No wonder the particles he dealt with found him so easy to ignore. They paused for a microsecond, and then went on with what they were saying. George wished that he could tamper with their internal compositions, and perhaps change their quark types and make them a little bit easier to deal with. He shook his head (?) again. No, that would be weak.

            "I just feel like I'm going in circles, and I haven't even been in that damned accelerator for a while," wailed Paula Proton. "I'm so conflicted, Doctor. There are forces pulling us in every direction--the strong force is holding us together, the electromagnetic force is pulling us apart--and I just don't know which way to spin anymore."

            "Wait a minute," George interrupted. "What do you know about the electromagnetic force?"

            Paula looked a bit sheepish. "I've been seeing this mediator on the side. Do you know Pamela Photon? She's extraordinary; she has an infinite range. Anyway, she's been telling me that positively charged particles are just no good for me; that I've got to free myself of this nucleus and find myself a nice single electron. And to tell you the truth, I think she makes a lot of sense.".............


MISSING! Nan Neutron from Sector A. Missing now 100 seconds. She was last seen at the kickball yard waiting to undergo radioactive beta decay. She has blond hair, weighs 1 unit, and has 1/2 spin and zero electric charge. She is made up of three quarks: two downs and one up. If found please report immediately to the proper authorities.

Let's Annihilate each other!

π - ISO feisty π + to share moment of absolute bliss! Please, only positive pions need reply. You, like me, know we've only got a lifetime of 10 -8 s. So let's get together. Go out with a photon! No use waiting around to decay! I mean if you wait just a split 1/100th of a second too long, it could be too late, you'll have decayed into a positive muon and muon antineutrino. Really, how fun would that be? So if you're looking for a night you'll never forget you've come to the right particle. Mailbox #92.

Wednesday :

All new Survivor: Lepton Collider. Join contenders, electron, positron, muon and antimuon as they battle for existence. Go behind the scenes of the new Lepton Collider and see what really happens when leptons stop being nice and start getting real........


"Look out! We're being collected!"

The helium atoms scattered to avoid the physicists. Lucy the proton stayed still, excited and expectant. Today was her lucky day. She was pretty sure that she was going to be put into a particle accelerator. She had heard her parents speaking in hushed tones about how her cousin Mika had been collected and had turned into a strange quark. Lucy wasn't surprised. Mika had been a bizarre proton. Her sister, Caroline, had ended up in a helium balloon for some little kid. Lucy smiled. She knew she might see her again someday, and, oh, wouldn't Caroline be surprised if Lucy had turned into a top quark!! The thought made her giggle with happiness.

The ride to the accelerator wasn't too bad. The accelerator, though, turned out to be vast and menacing like a large coil of snake. There was an ominous detection center of some sort, but Lucy couldn't quite see it. She cried out as she was separated from her atom and put into a large box. It was there that she met Andrew. Andrew was a proton too. He smiled at Lucy.

"Are you ready?" he asked kindly.

"Oh, Yes!" squealed Lucy.

"We're going to smash, you know."

"I know," said Lucy. "My cousin came out as a strange quark!"

What do you think we'll turn into?" mused Andrew.

"They want a top quark, I heard. ......



Deep in the hundred-acre wood lived a happy nuclear family. You could tell that strong forces held the Nucleon family together. They had pet gluons running around the house, from proton to proton, neutron to neutron, neutron to proton. Or at least they thought they had pet gluons; there were empty bowls, chewed bones and other compelling evidence, but the Nucleons never actually saw them. Anyway, one day, the parents, the neutrons, told their children, the three little protons, that it was time for them to go out into the world and seek their fortunes. In other words, they were tired of their kids sponging off them. The three Protons were a little surprised at this, as their parents were usually so neutral about everything. But, as always, the protons kept their positive outlook on life, and struck out on their own.

Peter Proton went off to Brookhaven, NY, where he found a whole group of other protons just like him! They shared a studio apartment in the Cosmotron. Patrick Proton went off to Berkeley, and found a similar commune in the kingdom of Bevatron. But Paula Proton, being more of a loner, decided she'd rather live all by herself, in Waxahachie, Texas. Her two brothers couldn't quite understand why she wanted to live alone in such a big, empty, abandoned place. They just thought she was silly.

Until, of course, that fateful day, when the big bad antielectrons came to town. These particles, also known as the Positron Gang, marched right up to the Cosmotron.

"Protons, Protons, let us come in!" they roared.

"Not by our quarks or our 1/2 spin!" cried the protons......