On the Quantum Nature of Coolness

Submitted into Contest #114 in response to: Write about a clique that dominates your story’s social scene.... view prompt



On the Quantum Nature of Coolness. A Thesis.

By Dr. Jill Pillar, Ph.D.

Cool kids. While many have brought into question their true existence on the basis of the lack of a measurable quantity by which to evaluate their said coolness, I now postulate that they are inexorably weaved into the very fabric of our universe.

After all, popularity is the abstract concept that keeps on giving, just like gravity. In Newton’s time, many thought gravity was a done deal. The Universal Law of Gravitation perfectly described the observable behavior of objects subject to gravitational forces, from free-falling apples to celestial bodies. Therefore, our community of knowledge seekers accepted Newton’s theory of gravity as the only truth, the answer to all questions on the topic. As we all know, this perception was shattered by the advent of General Relativity, and our community must now grapple with the tedious task of reconciling this macroscopic theory with the quantum world in the form of our quest for the evasive Graviton. Just when you thought you knew everything, there is more to be found under the surface.

In a similar way, the concept of popularity necessitates more research to properly formulate an all-encompassing theory. As a high school student who was mercilessly bullied by alleged cool kids who would not sit with me, I cherished hope that such cliques would vanish as I entered university. How foolish I was, naturally, for cool kids also permeated my undergrad cluster, shutting me out of sorority parties and spreading nasty rumors. Then came my Masters. And my Ph.D. And my fellowship. Wherever I went, there were cool kids to cast shadow upon my existence.

In this thesis, I will present my findings regarding my study of the latest clique of cool kids to cross my path, which I will refer to as the Bullying Bosons. The Bullying Bosons are known to prey on newcomer physicists in the Large Hadron Collider cafeteria, discouraging them from approaching senior researchers to safeguard their chances of being selected for prestige projects. This thesis explores the nature of their coolness with a quantum approach, and the effective means by which to neutralize it.


Dr. Pamela Kirk, of Wyoming.

Dr. Kathy York, of Cambridge.

Dr. Isobel Lane, of Austria.

These were the women that composed the Bullying Bosons. All came from privilege. All came from wealth. Most importantly, all had never taken a good enough look in the mirror to notice the boiling mix of hatred and contempt that simmered underneath their impeccable skin. Subjects were observed to be in their early thirties and wore clothes far beyond the price range affordable to an entry-level particle physicist.

My first encounter with the subjects took place in the cafeteria on my first day working at the Large Hadron Collider. As I made my way between tables, desperately seeking a friendly face, they called on me to sit with them.

“Dr. Pillar!” said Kirk, her fake smile wider than the trail of Halley’s Comet. “Please, have a seat.”

I quickly understood this was not a request, but an order. Even though they were not my superiors, I felt compelled to cave in, to execute.

“We read your publication in Nature last month,” quickly said York. “A fine piece of extrapolation on Feynman’s work, that’s for sure.”

“I don’t know if I would call it an extrapolation,” I replied, putting on a fake smile of my own. “We all build on the work of the masters, but I like to think our group’s approach was fairly novel.”

“Ground-breaking indeed,” added Lane, pouring over me what might as well have been liquid nitrogen with her words. My smile vanished. “What are your aspirations here?”

“I would very much like to join Dr. Keith’s Graviton research group,” I said. “This is the very reason I became a physicist.”

“You might want to find another reason then,” said Kirk with a smirk. “There is only one position open, and Dr. Keith personally promised it to me. It makes perfect sense, given my previous research experience. Better luck next time.”

They got up from the table and walked away, leaving me like a lonely Hydrogen atom ionized from its electron.


As I watched the Bullying Bosons terrorize our cohort day after day, an idea came to my mind in a flash of, dare I say it, genius.

Our quantum theory of gravity postulates that gravitational fields are mediated by a particle that we have yet to observe, the Graviton. Without it, gravity could not exist, and massive bodies could not orbit around each other.

At the Large Hadron Collider, everyone gravitated around the Bullying Bosons, from juniors to seniors. It was as if they radiated a field of coolness into which we were all caught. Yet, this field must have been mediated by something. I just had to find what it was, and cut it off.

And so the quest for the Coolon started.


After many sleepless nights of research spent reading everything I could find on the Bullying Bosons, it finally dawned on me.

Kirk. That name rang a bell. There was a Kirk building at Harvard, and one at MIT. I had never made the connection between the two, but it now seemed so obvious.

Paul Kirk was a generous donor in the scientific world. His donations had even accelerated the quest for a malaria vaccine in the early twenty-first century. Yet, little was known about his private life. No one knew he had a daughter making her way up the hierarchy of the physics world. At least, no one did at the time.

A few online searches later, the article key to my experiment popped up on my engine. A Kirk building would soon be inaugurated at the CERN headquarters. The building was so remote from the LHC, no one had awareness of its construction, except for select members of the executive branch, who no doubt favoured Pamela Kirk in her endeavours to land prestige projects. This fuelled her inner circle's aura of perfection as she pranced about the cafeteria.

Needless to say, I printed multiple copies of the said article, and prepared to take note of the results.

The next day in the cafeteria, everyday rushed to read the posters on the wall. Pamela Kirk, the golden child of LHC, had only gotten into the program because daddy paid for a building.

"Have you seen this?"

"Five million dollars? My father could never."

"Did you know he was also on the board of the Physical Society?"

"That must have been how she got this sad excuse of a paper published."

"Oh yeah, that research was at the level of a high school science fair."

"I'm sending a complaint to HR."

The Bullying Bosons collapsed. Their reign was over. The boson mediating their field had vanished.

And so my theory was confirmed. The field of Coolness does exist, and it must be mediated by a vector particle. In this case, it was a rich daddy. In other instances, it may be a hot boyfriend, a hip mom, or a shiny gold necklace, but it's always there. All geeks should be reminded to just avoid getting caught up in the field.

This thesis excerpt may be used by publications to support articles regarding Dr. Pillar's Nobel Prize for her Theory of Coolness.

October 09, 2021 03:58

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