Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hydrogen's Love Affair with Helium

One lonely Hydrogen atom sees how noble Helium is and wants to join with another Hydrogen atom to form a Hydrogen marriage. At first, they just moved in together, but inevitably a third Hydrogen would come along and break up this cohabitation scheme. Finally, they decide to fuse their nuclei like Helium.

The Latter naturally object, insisting that only Helium can do that (though rumor has it that sometimes Helium sneaks in an extra neutron or two, those are called Fundamentalist Helium but are now officially disowned by the Periodic Table), and that two Hydrogen could never get close enough to have what Helium has. Once inside they might seduce other nucleons to change identity and destroy chemistry as we know it (indeed it was standard practice to expel from the nucleus such deviants via radiation).

Helium got together with its buddies Neon and Argon to form a coalition of the willing, even though Argon was too heavy to be of use, and stingy Neon turned out to be no more buoyant than hot air (and secretly loathed Helium), so in the end it was Helium, being the lightest, who did the heavy lifting. They passed a ballot proposition by telling the other elements that Hydrogen's real goal is not nobility but alchemy, and that anyway they already had their own, much weaker, Hydrogen bond.

Outraged, Hydrogen charged straight at the Helium nucleus, expecting to do battle with the usual inverse-square repulsive electric force of Evangelical positive ions, the seductive power of vice-ridden negative ions, and the side-swiping of the well-meaning but just as deterring magnetic force which, rather than do any work to help, merely diverts Hydrogen with offers of separate-but-equal civil union, pushing Hydrogen off course and sending him in circles.

But unexpectedly, when Hydrogen got close to Helium, he sensed an unusually strong but very short-range force which he could not explain and did not understand. Formerly indifferent to his presence, Helium was inexplicably and strongly resistant to his nuclear ambitions. Many Hydrogen, understandably angry, started calling Helium bad names like Boron. But one Hydrogen suspected that the very force that was repelling him was the same strong force that bound the Helium nucleus so harmoniously.

More determined than ever, Hydrogen joined Helium blogs (the other noble gas blogs were uninsightful and poorly written) in the hope of understanding the true nature of this strong nuclear force, so powerful that Helium does not steal electrons, is not attracted to alcohol or caffeine molecules, and is always so level-headed.

Now this no-longer lonely Hydrogen does not just advocate for Hydrogen rights or disparage or envy Helium, but seeks to understand the true nature of the strong nuclear force, just one small but essential step on my path to discovering a unified theory of my universe.

1 comment:

Clean Cut said...

Insightful parable. Seeking for understanding is a noble (and rewarding) goal, indeed.