The Personal Blog of Stephen Sekula


This morning, as I made my way from the shower to the kitchen (with some steps in between involving a towel and a dresser), my bleary eyes fell on a new fridge magnet. “Quarked!”, it read. I asked Jodi about it, and she responded, “I wondered when you’d see that.” Turns out it came back from India with her, a gift from a physicist from Kansas.

Quarked is an educational cartoon ( that attempts to express the realm of subatomic particles in a fun way. It seems to be targeted to kids older than the “VeggieTales” age and younger than seniors in high school, although it centers on the adventures of high school freshmen.

This program appears to bring together two interesting things. The first is subatomic particles. The second is Kansas. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this neat-looking program is the result of efforts by a university in a state embroiled in the stew of personal religious views and public education. Quarks are pretty non-controversial in the fundamentalist world, although they aren’t mentioned in the Bible. Of course, a lot of important things aren’t in the Bible, the Qu’ran, or any other religious text. They are, however, written into the good book of the natural world, sometimes in letters a million light years across.

I had always wondered what kind of quiet educational backlash might occur from Kansas. Could this be a sign? I think it’s a hopeful sign. It tells me that the serious academics, the serious scientists, whom I know are also devoted citizens of Kansas, are finally finding ways to tell their compelling scientific story. I wonder if “Quarked” might be an example for programs in chemistry, biology, mathematics, and other basic research fields. It’s one model, but at least it gives the rest of us an idea of how to become spokespersons for our own field. It’s time that we stopped letting loud mouths speak for our science, loud mouths who know nothing of the pain of making a serious hypothesis, who know nothing of sleepless nights spent whipping an analysis into shape or writing a serious paper. Let’s all get quarked.