The Quirks of Quarks

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“Hey, James, can you grab us all some refills?”
“Yeah, no problem.”
As I walked away from where my two friends were sitting, I noticed that a third person had taken my seat and was already eagerly chatting to them.
As I turned back, I was startled but pleasantly surprised to see Professor Higgins, wearing his trademark antired suit, standing in front of me.
“Professor! How are you?” I asked.
“Oh, I’m doing rather well. How are you doing?”
“I’m fine. Actually, why don’t we skip the formalities? We don’t have a lot of time.”
“What’s the hurry, James?”
“You know how this works. When we merge with that group of three over there, one of us will, be annihilated …”
I could already see them. A tall man in a blue T-shirt was ordering lattes from a barista wearing a green apron, while a girl wearing a red sweater waited impatiently behind them, alternately glaring at them and glancing down at her phone.
“And what if that didn’t happen? What if all five of us, albeit temporarily, were a cohesive group?”
I was taken aback by the absurdity of his proposal.
“How could that even work?”
“Well, think of it as a pair of pairs. It would be like a pair of two, but one of the pair members would itself be a group of two, and the other would be a group of three.”
“But that’s impossible! When a two meets a three, two of the five are always destroyed.”
“Well, yes, that’s right, at least usually. But occasionally they don’t, instead forming an incredibly unstable configuration called a pentaquark.”
“Unstable, huh?”
“Even so, it’s truly remarkable that we could document such an arrangement forming. Imagine the consequences! We could see groups of four, or six, or even more!”
“Professor, it sounds like you’re rambling again.”
“Ah! But not this time, James. In October, scientists at CERN found conclusive evidence of pentaquarks. This is the first confirmation that the theory has some merit to it.”

We had almost reached the group of three. I wondered if we could somehow, improbably, form a group of five.
I walked up to the counter, hopeful.
“Three coffees, please.”
“Sure.” The barista, clearly bored, turned to make my order.
I turned to speak to the professor, but instead saw a bright flash of light. I knew that he and the girl in red had already canceled each other out of existence.

About the Author: 
Thor Larson is currently a junior in high school who loves math science, and writing. He has been interested in Quantum Theory ever since he learned about it last year in his AP Chemistry class. Thor hopes to attend college, but still hasn't decided on what he wants to study.