One sewing machine.
One big idea about very, very small things.
Hi! I'm Julie Peasley, owner of The Particle Zoo and head Particle Zookeeper. I am the seamstress, product designer, researcher, mail packager, inventory manager, proofreader, web programmer, 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. 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 and started adding other particles from The Standard Model. Soon, physicists and physics bloggers around the world were requesting different particles and so I rushed to include all the known particles -- and many of the unknowns!
After reading The Particle Odyssey by Chistine Sutton/Frank Close/Michael Marten and Gordon Kane's The Particle Garden, my adventure with particles continued. (Later, I met Christine at my CERN talk and Gordon Kane became a customer - total awesomeness!)
The Particle Zoo 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.
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 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 podcast interviewed me for an episode on entrepreneurs.
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)