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Typical Day

Peter Particle is a particle physicist. Why, yes, he did used to play Magic: The Gathering—how did you know?

Anyway, Peter wakes up at 10:45pm—yes, pm—and, after getting ready to start his day/night, heads over to the Shmoop National Accelerator Laboratory where he works. Starting at midnight, he and his team operate a large (and by large, we mean roughly 20 feet around) camera that captures images of the explosions created by the collisions between the proton and anti-proton beams that are being fired inside the massive Shmoopatron collider. (After each collision, Peter determines which beam was at-fault and writes them a ticket.) Because the wavelengths of most particles are too long to observe under normal conditions, Peter and his team must use their accelerator to greatly increase a particle's momentum, which shortens its wavelength and makes it possible to keep track of it. Then, when the collision occurs inside of the accelerator, the camera can record something with usable information, rather than just a confusing blur. Even if some of those confusing blurs are interesting to look at and pretty trippy.

While the photographs are being snapped, Peter records the data while the rest of his team monitors the camera and ensures the accuracy of the data that Peter is inputting. A few of them take their own notes as well, so that all observations can later be compared. Once in a while, one member of the team will pick up on something that everyone else missed, which is why there are several of them working on this project at once and not just some lonely, solitary gentleman operating all the equipment himself and jotting things down in a notebook.

The team breaks for breakfast at 5am and, over their Pop Tarts, discuss and analyze all of the data that has been recovered since their shifts began. If there are, in fact, any instances of someone noticing something that the others didn't, they bring it up now and discuss what their observation may mean. This project is being carried out on a very long-term basis, so there usually isn't some incredible, overarching epiphany that strikes someone; rather, it is a series of tiny steps forward that hopefully will culminate in a greater overall understanding of their area of research by the time their work is ultimately completed. You know that "small step for man" quote? Yeah...it's like that.

Peter and his team do more of the same for another three hours, and then...that's it. End of Peter's day. He'll go home to catch some shut-eye, after which he needs to be back in the lab at 3pm for a status meeting at which all of the physicists working on the project (consisting of a number of different teams) will be present. That should be a roomful of laughs.