You Work With Atoms, You Put Your Life On The Line. Every Day.

June 11, 2011


News Item –  The BBC reported that nuclear physicists in the search for antimatter have had a major breakthrough.
Scientists at the Switzerland/France CERN particle collider announced the successful capture of an anti-hydrogen atom for almost 16 minutes.

Dr. Skeinman: Well, we’ve come close a few times before.  Once we thought we’d captured one, but it turned out to be a regular hydrogen atom in disguise.  We all had a good laugh, though.  Those atoms… (laughs)… they can be real rascals.  But they’re always good fun.  The hydrogen atoms, in particular, are just good old regular folks.  (pause)  Anti-hydrogen, on the other hand…

Dr. Shields: It’s tricky enough just getting them into the chamber.  Man, those antimatter atoms can smell a trap a mile away.  I mean, you can’t just play casual, you got to be casual. You know what I’m saying?  Like, you’ll get an atom near the door, you can’t even flash a quick glance to see if he’s taking the bait or bam, he’s outta there.  And if you’re in his way, well, forget it, man.  They’re small, but they’re serious.  But this time?  Why this one went in to the chamber?  I don’t know.  I really don’t.  We got lucky, I guess.

What makes hydrogen atoms so funny? I don’t know, maybe it’s that deadpan expression of theirs.

Dr. McCall: Once I realized that anti-hydrogen atom was in the chamber at all, well, I kind of lost my cool.  I was yelling, “He’s in!  He’s in!  Close the door!” (pause)  It’s embarrassing. I sure didn’t help the situation.

Dr. Giles: After McCall flipped, everything just went nuts.  That anti-hydrogen about tore the doors off the place.  I was in there with a chair saying, “Whoa, there.  Easy now.  Take it easy.”  That thing was looking at me like it was war.  I think I sounded okay, but my heart was beating so hard I thought it’d come right out of my chest.  My hands were shaking.  Then Dr. Shields… I don’t know what the hell he was thinking.

Dr. Shields: Look, godammit, Giles was cornered and that atom was mad as hell.  I’d been having lunch and, yeah, maybe I’d had a couple of beers with lunch, what of it?   I bust my ass in that particle collider all day.  So I had a bottle there, and I smashed the end of it off and said, “Okay, anti-hydrogen, listen up.  This can go one of two ways – you want it to go easy?  You just settle down.  You want to go hard?  Then, come on, atom; let’s dance.”

You think I’m afraid to cut an atom? Huh?

Dr. Giles:  Obviously, that just pissed it off.  So it slams in to me – not Shields, me.  Knocked me right to the ground.  Luckily a few of the others showed up, surrounded it.

Dr. Pierce: We show up and Giles is on the ground, Shields is waving around that broken bottle.  Jesus.

Dr. Hollister: I told everyone to spread out.  Looked right at that atom and said, “Okay, now.  Let’s all just calm down a little.  All of us.  We just want to have a look at you.  Have a little talk.  That’s all.”  I told Shields to put down the damn bottle, which luckily he did.  That temper of his… I’m surprised the whole thing didn’t go south.

Dr. Pierce: The whole time Hollister is talking that anti-hydrogen atom down – speaking in that calm, baritone of his – we’re just inching forward, inching forward.  Before we know it, we’re at the back of the particle accelerator and the anti-hydrogen is in the corner.  That atom, it saw it had nowhere to go.  You could almost see it deciding whether to relax or fight its way out.  If it’d chosen to fight?  Man, I would hate to have to bet on who comes on top in that fight.

Dr. Hollister: So, I kind of look at the others. You could feel the energy shift a little.  Like, the storm might be ending.  I said, “We just want about twenty minutes of your time. That’s it.”  He was still pretty agitated, bouncing around, making false starts at people.  So I said, “Fifteen. That’s all, just fifteen minutes and you’re gone.”  That seemed to calm him down a little.

Dr. McCall: So well all just kept our distance, that thing looking at us.  Any sudden moves and it got agitated again. It was tense. Tense.  But after about ten minutes I think it really saw that we just wanted to talk.  After the time was up, we just stepped aside, opened the doors. I swear it gave us a little nod, like, it respected us.

“Will we ever see it again?” “I don’t know, Dr. McCall. I just don’t know.”

Dr. Shields: And then it was gone.  Whoosh.  It was something.  I ain’t kidding.  People talk about the dangers of anti-matter, of particle colliders… they don’t even know.  They don’t even know.

Dr. Hollister: Amen to that.

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Site in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, but sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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10 Comments on “You Work With Atoms, You Put Your Life On The Line. Every Day.”

  1. brainforthought Says:

    “Man, those antimatter atoms can smell a trap a mile away”. That made me laugh.


  2. Blogdramedy Says:

    Must have been the longest 16 minutes on record for those physicists. But that’s research for you. It’s alway 58 minutes of “Who’s turn to go for donuts” and 2 minutes of “Where the fuck is the video camera?”

    PS Been wondering where you were. I subscribed to your blog last week then waited…and waited…wrote a few BlogShorts…then waited some more.

    What a way to break a fast! Brilliant post. Just splendiferous. 🙂


    • Byron MacLymont Says:

      Thanks – I’ve been out of town. Although, to be fair, I tend to have these fits and starts anyway – I seem to average out to about one post a week. Working on a little better consistency, but then my self-destructive/perfectionism instincts kick-in. I don’t call myself “byronic” for nothing!


  3. The Good Greatsby Says:

    And they say nuclear physicists don’t have a sense of humor.


  4. susielindau Says:

    This is hilarious! Who knew atoms were so shy? I wonder if Dr. Shields went back out to the bar for something stronger afterward…
    Great post! I recognize some of these commenters from 2011! Thanks for swinging by the party!


  5. Katie Glenn Says:

    Haha, this is how chemistry should be taught! Thanks for sharing at Susie’s blog party!


  6. The Blissful Adventurer Says:

    bad ass as always! great stuff and glad I came over from Susie’s party for this 🙂


  7. The Guat Says:

    Hanging out at Susie’s party and thought I would stop by and check out your post. Funny story 🙂


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