# Random Samples

Science  14 Jan 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6014, pp. 129
1. # Save the Cucumbers?

When it comes to overfishing, tuna and sharks tend to hog the limelight. But spare a thought for the sea cucumbers. These elongated, leathery echinoderms, used in Asian soups and medicine, are being rapidly depleted, according to the first quantitative global analysis, published online 30 December in Fish and Fisheries.

1. # Subatomic Shuffle

Prefer particle physics to poker? Pick up a deck of the Quark Matter Card Game, and you can have both. Instead of kings and queens, the cards feature quarks (up, down, and strange); muons, electrons, and their neutrinos; and antiparticles for all.

Hungarian high school students Csaba Tör∞k and Judit Csörgő invented the deck with Judit's father, Tamás, a physicist at the KFKI Research Institute for Particle and Nuclear Physics in Budapest. The simplest game is “Anti,” in which players quickly identify particle and antiparticle combinations, bearing in mind a quantum-mechanical property called “color” indicated by the color of the card. It's an abstract concept, but “even children who cannot read can learn the rules,” Tamás says. For adult players, he recommends “Quark Matter,” which starts with cards densely piled to represent the quark-gluon plasmas physicists cook up at Brookhaven National Laboratory's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), where Tamás works on the PHENIX experiment. Players draw cards according to the physics of how the plasma expands and reforms into particles known as hadrons.

The cards and rule book can be ordered or downloaded from the self-publishing site Lulu (http://scim.ag/qm-cards). Now RHIC physicists can play the game while waiting for the beam, Tamás says. In any case, he says, “It's a really nice feeling to walk around with elementary particles in your pocket.”