Up Quark, 2010
cast tin
5 × 9.5 × 5cm

Up Quark is a small study made to explore the parameters of something that you know is there but cannot ever see. Made in tin – a poor metal – it conjures a feeling of pushing forth or trying to get out, it has no right or wrong side, neither does it have an up or down side rather it is a shape that can remain unfixed. It is an attempt to ‘fix’ or pin down the knowledge that there are infinite parts or bits in the world waiting.

Recently I started on a new series of work based on quarks that came out of looking at charms. It was about two years ago that I first came across the charm ‘quark’ and was literally charmed by its name. I began researching and making work about quarks – these strange, unseen things –- and was captivated by the idea of the invisible reality of quarks and their poetic names.

Quarks are invisible minute particles that make up the molecules within atoms. The six of them are known as ‘up’, ‘down’, ‘strange’, ‘charm’, ‘top’ [or truth], and ‘bottom’ [or beauty]. It was the physicist Murray Gell-Mann who came up with the name and decided on the spelling – it could have been kwork – but he finally fixed on quark having come across the word in James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake.

‘Three quarks for muster Mark! Sure he has not got much of a bark. And sure any he has its all beside the mark’.
James Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake

‘In 1963, when I assigned the name "quark" to the fundamental constituents of the nucleon, I had the sound first, without the spelling, which could have been "kwork". Then, in one of my occasional perusals of Finnegan’s Wake, by James Joyce, I came across the word "quark" in the phrase "Three quarks for Muster Mark". Since "quark" (meaning, for one thing, the cry of the gull) was clearly intended to rhyme with "Mark", as well as "bark" and other such words, I had to find an excuse to pronounce it as "kwork". But the book represents the dream of a publican named Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker. Words in the text are typically drawn from several sources at once, like the "portmanteau" words in "Through the Looking-Glass". From time to time, phrases occur in the book that are partially determined by calls for drinks at the bar. I argued, therefore, that perhaps one of the multiple sources of the cry "Three quarks for Muster Mark" might be "Three quarts for Mister Mark", in which case the pronunciation "kwork" would not be totally unjustified. In any case, the number three fitted perfectly the way quarks occur in nature.’
Murray Gell-Mann, 1963

Gell-Mann originally named the quark after the sound made by ducks. For some time, he was undecided on an actual spelling for the term he intended to coin, until he found the word quark in James Joyce's book Finnegan’s Wake. Gell-Mann went into further detail regarding the name of the quark in his book ‘The Quark and the Jaguar’:

The quark flavours were given their names for a number of reasons. The up and down quarks are named after the up and down components of isospin, which they carry. Strange quarks were given their name because they were discovered to be components of the strange particles discovered in cosmic rays years before the quark model was proposed; these particles were deemed "strange" because they had unusually long lifetimes. Glashow, who co-proposed charm quark with Bjorken, is quoted as saying, "We called our construct the 'charmed quark', for we were fascinated and pleased by the symmetry it brought to the subnuclear world." The names ‘top’ and ‘bottom’, coined by Harari, were chosen because they are ‘logical partners for up and down quarks’. In the past, top and bottom quarks were sometimes referred to as ‘truth’ and ‘beauty’ respectively, but these names have mostly fallen out of use.

Liadin Cooke
2010