Quark Constituents

quark_cheeseNoticed this on the shelves in a supermarket yesterday. (I was hunting for clotted cream, but that’s another story.) I can’t recall if I’ve known before that “quark” was also a kind of cheese.

I suspect that this might have potentially amusing physics joke uses in the future.

To further my education, I looked up quark cheese on Wikipedia. All very interesting.

And, no, since you ask: There was nothing in there about quark cheese being made of string cheese…


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8 Responses to Quark Constituents

  1. Mary Cole says:

    Maybe this is what the fluffy quarks (of my imagination) eat!

  2. Joerg says:

    “Quark” is the German word for it, and it’s really common. Actually, so common that I didn’t even realize it’s considered a cheese.

  3. Daniel Grumiller says:

    Actually you ate quark already in Vienna: it was an ingredient in the dough for the apricot dumplings!

    Except that it was NOT fat free (fat free dairy products are against my common-sense religion).

    BTW, in Austria Quark it is called “Topfen”.

    I think both Gell-Mann and James Joyce were aware of the German meaning…

  4. Tim van Beek says:

    in Germany it is not considered to be a cheese, but a milk product more similar to yogurt and mostly used as a (very common) ingredient for cakes or other other desserts. For example, people like to mix quark with fruits like cherries and call that “Quarkspeise”. Very easy to make, but quite delicious!

    The story, as far as I know, is this: Murray Gell-Mann was completely ignorant that the word quark has a specific meaning in German. Joyce may have known it, since he spoke a few words of German, but in his novel “Finnegan’s Wake” he used it as a pure echoism. While there is always some speculation in German classes about quantum field theory that there is some connection, I’ve never heard of a sound proof.

  5. karl says:


    A story I heard once is that in the late 20s there was a commercial slogan in Germany that went “Drei Quark für eine Mark”. Joyce travlling through Germany at that time had
    picked it up and transformed it to “Three quarks for Muster Mark”.
    Note that in the early 20s Germany suffered hyperinflation and a slogan emphasizing that 1 Mark had a value of 3 quark did make some sense at the time (probably not so much as praising the quark but the value of the currency). The new, stable currency of the “Reichsmark” introduced in 1925 had an exchange rate of 1RM = 10^12 old mark. (Who says that you need to study physics or astronomy to learn about really big numbers, sometimes economy has them as well)
    Be warned however, this story is rather apocryphic and probably nothing more than quark by itself

    p.s. you might also find it amusing that in German “Quark” can have the meaning of nonsense

    a final question: was that at Trader Joe’s? it is owned by a German supermarket tycoon, Theo Albrecht, who owns the German Aldi chain, probably that’s how this type of quark came to California

  6. Clifford says:

    Hi Daniel! I was not aware of that. You did tell me the ingredients, during my enthusiastic devouring of the many tasty culinary treats you prepared that evening, but I guess maybe you used the Austrian term…. or perhaps I forgot that you also said quark… as I hinted at in the post, I sort of feel that it is something I knew and then forgot again…. (?)

    Hi Tim! That sort of mixing with fruit is something I’ve seen before, and I myself do that with very thick yoghurt… As for whether Gell-Mann knew or not, I guess I can ask him next time I see him since, as recently announced, he is now a colleague. But my understanding is that he is on the other campus more…

    Hi Karl! Now that’s an interesting story. I have heard about the “nonsense” meaning before… no it was not Trader Joe’s. While I do shop there more than any other supermarket, from time to time I must find things that they don’t have… this time, clotted cream. Coincidentally that is another relatively unusual over here dairy product that may go by several names elsewhere. I am not aware of any elementary particles named for it though. A friend was having a tea party (in the good old-fashioned non-political sense) and made scones and called for clotted cream to go on them along with the usual jams and other preserves. Yes, the ownership of Trader Joe’s is often discussed here. Interesting organization.

    Thanks all!


  7. karl says:

    Ok, you got us!
    This time it was me who looked up Wikipedia to know more about “clotted cream”. — Gosh, its made out of unpasteurized milk! Do the US allow this? I think the EU wanted to forbid the sale of such things but the French insisted on their raw milk cheese.

    Concering physics: somebody missed an opportunity here, would have been a perfect name for the unparticle

  8. Clifford says:


    I imagine that they modify it for import to the US. (…then I checked jar – yes… pasteurized milk in ingredients.)

    You’re right! It would have been a great name for unparticles!