One sewing machine.
One big idea about very, very small things.
I, Julie Peasley, am the Particle Zookeeper. I am the sole seamstress, product designer, conceptualizer, mail packager, inventory manager, chief operating officer, proofreader, driver, and emailer. I have had a lifelong interest in cosmology, the quantum world and theoretical physics. The particle plushies idea came about after attending a physics lecture and a craft show in the same weekend. The lecture was by Dr. Lawrence Krauss at UCLA entitled "The Beginning and End of Time" in July 2007. A couple of difficult physics books later (including Lisa Randall's Warped Passages), I realized that the individual particles seemed to have various "personalities" that could be "felted out" as soft toys with relative ease. I did not know how to sew and borrowed an ancient sewing machine to make the first prototype: a photon. I soon learned the basics of sewing and bought a new machine.
After reading The Particle Odyssey by Chistine Sutton/Frank Close/Michael Marten and Gordon Kane's The Particle Garden, my adventure with particles began. (Later, I met Christine at my CERN talk and Gordon Kane ordered some particles - total awesomeness!)
The Particle Zoo business turned 9 this year and I've made approximately 50,000 particle toys. All by myself! This has been a wild ride, a labor of love, a dream come true, and a challenging path.
People, Know What You're Made Of
I hope The Particle Zoo can raise awareness and interest in the fascinating field of particle physics. And with the experiments happening at the Large Hadron Collider, the field is only going to get more and more exciting. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty curious about the existence of other dimensions or how the particles are created and destroyed. We are privileged to live in a time when we might just find out.
If you want to hear more about how the business started and my story, the Launch to Greatness people interviewed me for their podcast.
The particles are art items factoring the equation: SCIENCE+ART=UNDERSTANDING.
Wonderfest Science Festival, Berkeley, California, November 2008.
(Photo by Raven Hanna of Made With Molecules)