Prometheus' gift of fission

A sonnet commemorating the 60th anniversary of the first laboratory-induced nuclear chain reaction.

By Jim Fisher
Published December 2, 2002 6:30PM (EST)

In Fermi's first reacting pile black bricks
Of graphite slugged with uranium
Were stacked to trick the laws of physics
With simple geometrics: Neutrons released
From fission diffused through radii
And slowed towards the surface of an orb
Sized so more neutrons found nuclei
To fission than surface to escape from;
Cadmium rods were inserted to absorb
Multiplying neutrons until the last
Layer of brick was laid -- then the rods
Were removed and the pile went critical,
Another theft from hypothetical gods
Of energy from the fuel of the physical.

Jim Fisher

Jim Fisher was manager of IT support at Salon from 1999 to 2004.

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