The Particle Zoo, a California-based company that produces soft-toy versions of elementary particles and other outreach materials, is searching for a buyer to take the reins.
Julie Peasley, a graphic designer with a keen interest in physics, started the company in 2008 after having attended a public lecture about cosmology at the University of California at Los Angeles and a craft fair in the same weekend. Setting up an online store, she began selling her particles, slowly expanding the range after requests from physicists. Beginning with little sewing experience, Peasley can now produce around four particle toys per hour and has created more than 50,000 units to date.
Each of the Zoo’s 36 felt particles, plus a range of related products from stickers to pillows, is designed to reflect the properties of its real counterpart: the W boson is double-sided to represent its positive and negative aspects; neutrinos are masked to reflect their elusive nature; and each toy is stuffed with a different material to reflect the mass hierarchy of the real particles.
Looking for a new career path, Peasley says the business has tremendous potential for growth with the right owner and a little capital. “To this day, there are no competitors – I am still the only person selling plush particles! I just never had the capital to take it to the next level,” she told CERN Courier.
Peasley piloted the mass-production of her two most popular particles – the Higgs boson and the electron – in China for three years. However, she struggled to secure the investment required to continue with the mass-production of all the particles. “Iʼd really love to see the business continue rather than die because it brings smiles to anyone who sees it.” Interested potential particle zookeepers can get in touch at particlezoo.net.