Nucular Fizzix

Growing up, my dad shared with me all the intricacies of the Periodic Table and the Chart of the Nuclides.  One lists the elements and groups them according to properties.  The other shows how they decay and fission.  I was mesmerized and still enjoy referring to these.  My wife bought me a coffee cup with the Periodic Table on it. 🙂

Last night was one of the proudest moments in my fatherhood life.  While I watched a video of Glenn Seaborg describing the birth of plutonium (atomic number 94, atomic weight 239), my daughter asked what it meant.  I explained to her about bombarding uranium (atomic number 92, atomic weight 238) with deuterons (one proton, one neutron – the nucleus of a deuterium atom).

“What’s deuterium?”

Oh, boy!  Now it’s time to embark upon that road that my father took me down so many years ago!

As I explained how a hydrogen atom is constructed of one proton and one electron, she actually listened.  Then I explained about deuterium – add a neutron.  She understood!  I quizzed her – “What if you have a hydrogen atom with two neutrons?”

She thought and said, “Triterium?”  Ooooh!  So close!  She’s a huge fan of the Spiderman movies, so when I said “Tritium”, her eyes really lit up.

“What’s fusion”?  I had to go through fission first – since it takes a fission reaction to start a fusion reaction.  She listened.  She understood.  She looked at my Periodic Table coffee cup with a new admiraion.

In my life, there is only one thing more important than my daughters and that’s my relationship with God.  I must admit sometimes even that suffers by comparison.  Because of the way I grew up, my daughters’ questions last night were very fulfilling to me.  Now, 14 hours later, I am still giddily excited about that conversation last night.  I hope there are many more.

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