Particle Physics and Stamp Collecting

Experimental Particle Physics has been derided as stamp collecting by some, and I would like to illustrate here why this comparison, although understandable, is wrong. The unstable and massive particles that have been discovered at various particle accelerators since the 1960s can decay to various combinations of lighter particles. For example, the B meson can decay to various combinations of lighter D mesons and various combinations of even lighter pions. Each of the decay combinations is called a mode. A high rate usage on an envelope-e.g. the 77 shilling rate found on some modern Kenya covers. The cover below has seven 11 shilling stamps. If Kenya issued a 77 shilling stamp (which I think it does not), this cover could have been franked with a single stamp.

It is also possible to have other combinations of stamps for this rate, such as the cover shown below. The nine 8 shillings stamps and the single 5 shillings stamp add up to 77 shillings.

Below is yet another 77 shillings rate, with seven 10 shillings, one 5 shillings, and two 1 shilling stamps.
Finally, here is a 77 shillings rate that requires only four stamps: a single 50 shillings, two 10 shillings, and a single 7 shillings stamp.
The analogy to stamp collecting is naive. Although a mode in particle physics does correspond somewhat to an usage combination for a rate, stamps have only an additive quality, while the particles that make up a mode, say, of the B meson, obey very specific conservation laws some of which are not simply the result of addition.
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