1862: Particle Properties

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Particle Properties
Each particle also has a password which allows its properties to be changed, but the cosmic censorship hypothesis suggests we can never observe the password itself—only its secure hash.
Title text: Each particle also has a password which allows its properties to be changed, but the cosmic censorship hypothesis suggests we can never observe the password itself—only its secure hash.


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A table is presented comparing the range (maximum and minimum value) and scale (how big number increments are) of several measures. The table begins by listing properties pertinent to particle physics as the title suggests, but quickly devolves to other domains such as role-playing games (such as D&D) and sports after failing to provide a good definition of flavor.

Property Scale Explanation
Electric charge [-1,1] The charge is shown in increments of a third from -1 to +1 which are the only known charges of fundamental particles (leptons, quarks and gauge bosons); however there are some exotic composite particles with twice integer charge, e.g. the recently discovered double charmed Xi baryon with a charge of +2.

Quarks are the only particles with charges of ± ⅓ or ± ⅔, but cannot exist on their own. To date, all hadrons (particles composed of quarks) have integer charge, and current models indicate that this must be the case.

Mass [0,∞) in kg Mass (specifically rest mass) is the measure of an object or particle's resistance to force, as well as its ability to distort spacetime (its gravitational attraction).

Theoretically, any object's mass could approach infinity, but mass cannot be below 0. Some particles, such as photons, have zero rest mass and are therefore massless.

All particles with rest mass obtain it through confinement, either by the Higgs field (the quarks, leptons and W, Z, and Higgs bosons) or the strong nuclear force (hadrons). Particles with no rest mass (photons and gluons) can only move at lightspeed

Spin number (-∞,∞) (Intervals of ½) Spin is an intrinsic property of particles, a relativistic form of angular momentum. The spin of a particle determines what statistics the particle follows, half odd integer spin particles are classified as fermions and integer spin particles are bosons.

Two fermions cannot have exactly the same state, an observation known as the Pauli exclusion principle. Thus, for fermions to exist in the same position, they must have opposite spins, of + ½ and - ½. It follows that a maximum of two fermions of the same flavor (e.g. two electrons) may exist in the same position.

Flavor Misc. quantum numbers Flavor is a series of quantum numbers that do not fit neatly onto a set of dimensional axes
Color charge Coordinate system with R, G and B axes The strong nuclear force has six mutually attractive charges, arranged in three perpendicular axes. These charges are commonly referred to as "color" and the three axes are given the names of the three primary colors of light: Red, Green and Blue. The black dots in the diagram represent the actual colors while the white dots are the anti-color charges: anti-Red (colored cyan in diagrams), anti-Green (magenta) and anti-Blue (yellow). To complete the analogy, a color charge of zero is referred to as "White". The names of these charges are purely allegorical, but they do make it convenient to refer to them, especially in diagrams.

The color of a particle not confined by the strong force must be White, either as the sum of a color and its anti-color (as in a meson), as the sum of RGB or anti-RGB (as in a baryon), or a sum of those sums (As in tetra-, penta- or hexaquarks). The attraction of the strong nuclear force is so strong that attempting to separate two quarks from each other creates enough energy to create two new quarks, which then bind to the original quarks. This property is known as "confinement" and means that color charge can never be observed directly.

This is the last entry currently used to describe particles by particle physicists.

Mood 5 emojis on a number line ranging from angry to joyful Mood particles are not considered to have emotion but Randall implies that there is a quantized 5 point scale which would have some effect of the properties of the particle. This would be more appropriate for measuring customer satisfaction.
Alignment 3x3 grid with varying shades (columns Good-Evil, rows Lawful-Chaotic) A reference to the tabletop RPG Dungeons & Dragons, where characters have an alignment that is either Good, Neutral, or Evil (describing whether they have a propensity to help or harm others) and either Lawful, Neutral, or Chaotic (describing how much they care about organizations, social norms, and the status quo). Common examples of these alignments include Darth Vader (Lawful Evil), Superman (Lawful Good), Robin Hood (Chaotic Good), and the Joker (Chaotic Evil). This may be a reference to the now defunct names of the two heaviest known quarks ("truth" and "beauty").
Hit points [0,∞) Games (videogames, board games, CCGs, RPGs, etc.) often have values for players and other entities that represent health (also called hit points or HP). Generally there is not necessarily a limit on this value, but it does not often go below 0 as the zero value is considered "dead" (or some equivalent).
Rating 5-star scale The five-star rating system is often used to rate films, TV shows, restaurants, and hotels. Randall has previously criticized this system in 937: TornadoGuard and 1098: Star Ratings.
String type Bytestring-Charstring In computer science this denotes what type of data is stored subsequent set of elements or a string. This is likely a pun on string types that appear in string theory and particle physics.
Batting average [0,100] in % In baseball, a player's batting average is calculated by dividing their hits by their at-bats. Instead of using the percent sign (%), it is usually presented as a number between 0 and 1 (inclusive) expressed as three decimal places with no leading zero: [.000, 1.000]. It is pronounced as though it is multiplied by 1,000: A batter with a batting average of .342 (which is very good) is said to be "batting three forty-two." A perfect batting average (unattainable except in very small samples) gives rise to the expression "batting a thousand." The scale would be a better match for the batting average statistic in cricket.
Proof [0,200] This refers to alcohol proof, which is the measure of the amount of ethanol in a beverage by volume. In the United States, the proof of a beverage is two times the percentage of ethanol, so the maximum value is 200.
Heat No jalapeño icons - 3 jalapeño icons, increasing Spicy peppers are measured by the intensity of the spicy flavor, usually ranging from values like "mild" to "hot". The gray jalapeño likely represents negligible or no spicy taste in the food.
Street value [0,∞) in $ The value of an illegal good or a legal/controlled good when bought or sold by illegal means.
Entropy This already has like 20 different confusing meanings, so it probably means something here, too. The term "entropy", which began as a thermodynamic measure, has since been adopted by analogy into multiple seemingly unrelated domains. The table doesn't seem to know what domain it is in, but (possibly in a desperate attempt to hide this) deems it safe to assume the unknown domain uses the term "entropy" for something!

Title text says that in addition each particle has a password, but only hash of the password can be observed. It is a computer science reference. Password hashing using some key derivation function is considered to be safest way of storing passwords, which makes it impossible to steal passwords even if the server that stores hashes is hacked.


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
Particle Properties in Physics
Property Type/scale
Electric charge [Scale with -1, 0 and +1 labeled]
Mass [Scale with 0, 1kg and 2kg labeled]
Spin number [Scale with -1, -½ 0, ½ and 1 labeled]
Flavor (Misc. quantum numbers)
Color charge [3D plot with R, G and B axes] (Quarks only)
Mood [Scale labeled with 5 emoticons, from angry to happy]
Alignment [3x3 grid with varying shades] Good-Evil, Lawful-Chaotic
Hit points [Scale starting from 0]
Rating [Star rating of 3.5/5 stars]
String type Bytestring-Charstring
Batting average [Scale from 0% to 100%]
Proof [Scale from 0 to 200]
Heat [Scale labeled with pepper icons, from 0 to 3]
Street value [Scale with $0, $100 and $200 labeled]
Entropy (This already has like 20 different confusing meanings, so it probably means something here, too.)

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oh dear, they copied the alt text wrong 14:58, 12 July 2017 (UTC)

More significantly, color charge is carried by gluons as well as quarks. Mjackson (talk) 15:19, 12 July 2017 (UTC)

As suggested by Zach Weinersmith ("For a joke: If you put pure alcohol under extreme pressure, could you claim to exceed 200 proof?"), it's kind of confusing that the comic suggests alcohol proof can exceed 200 proof, and also that baseball batting averages can exceed 100%. Although on further review, they use the arrow-dot →∙ notation rather than the dot-arrow ∙→, so maybe it's not intended to indicate a lack of an upper bound. But then I'm not sure what it does indicate, esp. compared to the Electric Charge property. Continuous vs. discrete? It doesn't seem clear… JohnHawkinson (talk) 15:41, 12 July 2017 (UTC)

I think the arrow-dot is meant to mean "approaches, but does not (usually) reach" -- asymptotic behavior, in other words. 16:39, 14 July 2017 (UTC)
Yes, I feel I can say with confidence that Arrow-Dot means "goes up to and including this number, but no more, this is the maximum", compared to the other scales with Dot-Arrow, which appear to mean "this dot/value is the highest you'll usually see, but it can be higher". For example the heat/spicy scale (I can't see it right now, can't remember what it's labelled as), the highest is 4 peppers and has a Dot-Arrow, but dishes which would be marked 4 Peppers would be relatively low on the Scovile Heat Scale (the actual scale for this). At one point I was looking into the heat scale, when I was figuring out the Frank's Red Hot sauces a local establishment carries, to see how much heat I like. The original Frank's lands at 450 Scovile Heat Units (SHU) and the Xtra Hot at 2,085 SHU. By comparison, Tabasco sauce is 2,500, the actual Tabasco pepper and Cayenne pepper are both between 30,000 to 50,000, Jalapeño averages 5,000 and the Ghost Chile Pepper over 800,000 and can top 1 million SHU. I'm sure the Tabasco, Cayenne and Ghost peppers are well above the scale in this comic. :) I read that the spiciest hot sauce you can buy commericially - as in without special mail order or something - is around 750,000 SHU. NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:36, 1 August 2017 (UTC)

Proof is presumably US proof - UK usage based on gunpowder 175 degrees proof would be 100% alcohol

Batting average is presumably from baseball Cricket batting averages are measured in runs per dismissal and are in theory unbounded. It is possible to have an infinite average for a season or series - though in terms of lifetime averages the best for players with more than ten matches is 99.96.

If it is for baseball, it's labeled incorrectly. A perfect batting average is 1.000, not 100%. Batting average is actually a ratio - number of hits to number of at-bats - expressed as a decimal, not a percentage. For example, if a batter goes 3 for 5 in a game, his batting average would be .600, not 60%. OldCorps (talk) 16:25, 12 July 2017 (UTC)

We should probably arrange descriptions into a table.

How is it that there's no pain scale?

Because Randall didn't think -- or possibly want -- to use it. Besides, do you really want every scale in existence in a single comic? If not, Randall has to select based on his own criteria, whatever they may be. As it is, there are 9 or 10 (depending on how you count "entropy") fields that don't apply to particle properties, as opposed to 5 or 6 that do. Gotta stop somewhere. Nyperold (talk) 22:44, 12 July 2017 (UTC)
He could also have added the Volume scale, which would, of course, have been between 0 and 13:20, 13 July 2017 (UTC)

Actually, D&D calls you "dead" if you go to your NEGATIVE hit point maximum. Otherwise, you make a completely random (50%) death saving throw. After 3 cumulative fails, you die. After 3 cumulative successes, you are stable. More info can be found in the Player's Handbook. SilverMagpie (talk) 21:33, 12 July 2017 (UTC)

According to the rules I know (Editions 3, 3.5 and Pathfinder) it's: 0 HP = unconscious; [-1; -CON) = dying (-> lose 1 HP each round unless you make a successful CON check); -CON = dead. http://www.d20pfsrd.com/gamemastering/conditions/#TOC-Dead Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 10:15, 13 July 2017 (UTC)
  • In GURPS, your hit points can get even more negative. Below 0 hit points, you need to make a save each turn or fall unconscious; for each [HP] damage beyond that, you make a save against dying. At -5*[HP] hit points you die automatically; at -10*[HP] your body is more or less destroyed. (Also, in GURPS your hit points don't arbitrarily grow; an average character has between 5 and 15 hit points.) - Mike Rosoft (talk) 17:08, 15 July 2017 (UTC)

"Heat" measured in jalapeño has also been used by some email systems such as Eudora to measure how strong an email message is (e.g., whether it will lead to a flame war) 05:02, 13 July 2017 (UTC)

Jalapeño measure between 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville Heat Units, or roughly 5,000 SHUs on average, so in theory you can assign objective values to a 1,2,3 jalapeño scale, i.e. 5000, 10000, 15000 SHUs RoyT (talk) 07:34, 14 July 2017 (UTC)

"String Type" being ByteString-CharString is a reference to Haskell, the programming language referenced in 1312: Haskell and used to make 1037: Umlaut, which is structurally obsessed with data types. ByteString is the go-to type for dynamic text, which in more literal form unpacks to a String of [Char]s. 08:41, 13 July 2017 (UTC)

The lower case g in Kg looks odd. I thought it was a strangely shaped 's'. WhiteDragon (talk) 20:35, 13 July 2017 (UTC)

Pretty sure the jalapeños are from ratemyprofessor.com: the tell is the grayed out one for zero 14:25, 14 July 2017 (UTC)

Marshall amps is unfortunately missing :-) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xgx4k83zzc