A bit like an antique cabinet of curiosities, the Standard Model of particle physics is meticulously organized — each particle in its designated place. But what happens if one doesn’t fit?
Symmetry Magazine / Sandbox Studio, 2022. Thanks to AD Michael Branigan.
Concepts, 3D modeling / illustration, painting, graphic design
ZBrush, C4D, Rizom UV, Clip Studio Paint, Ps & Ai
3D illustrations for Symmetry Magazine article: What’s up with the W boson mass?
Particle physics is one of my favorite topics to learn & create visuals about. I reimagined the Standard Model in the form of a stylized, antique curiosity cabinet (or wunderkammer) with particles neatly arranged and held in place by cloches (some sort of aetherpunk magitech devices, undoubtedly). The W boson — too massive and fast — has just broken out of its bell jar.
The cabinet's design reflects the particles relations to one another, though with some limitation by the landscape format. Here's a good, short blog post (unaffiliated) about the various shapes of Standard Model graphics. And the most recent, scientifically-accurate iteration (interactive 3D model and art direction by me) in this longer explainer by Natalie Wolchover: A New Map of All the Particles and Forces.
Close-ups: Quarks and Leptons
Quarks have the usual properties: electric charge, mass, spin. And a strange fourth one, "color charge", that has little relation to the common meanings of either word. Rather, it refers to strong force interactions — the force that holds quarks together (like glue, ergo "gluons", the strong force carriers) to form hadrons.
Physicist Murray Gell-Mann coined the term color and named the quark itself, inspired by lines from James Joyce's novel, Finnegan's Wake:
Quarks change color (red, blue, or green) when emitting or absorbing gluons. Their combination, as inside of protons, results in a color-neutral state that figuratively mimics the fusion of RGB in light: colorless, or "white".
Leptons, on the other hand, do not interact with the strong force. The charge-less neutrinos are particularly famous for not interacting with very much at all. A couple of related projects about these subatomic ghosts:
© Olena Shmahalo