What have we learned so far about electricity?
•Electricity is the flow of subatomic particles called electrons
•Electrons are located in things called atoms
•Electrons will flow in a conductor when it is placed in a magnetic field
•An electric generator is essentially many conductors rotating in a magnetic field
•Electricity is free but the means to turn the generator is not
•The generator can be turned by wind, water, or (most commonly) steam
•Steam is produced by boiling water
•Heat to boil water comes most commonly by burning coal
•Another source of heat to boil water is the heat given off by a nuclear reaction
So, onward and upward, mes petits protégés.
Most of you have seemed very bored in class so far, because the information has been so elemental. Except for little Canucklehead, who often looked challenged, even during the balloon rubbing. Today, in an effort to keep you exceptional children awake, we will discuss what a nuclear reaction is, what fun things you can do with it once you have it going, and, in another post, a couple of things you probably want to watch out for. Ready?
First of all, you may recall that the nucleus of an atom consists of little things called protons and neutrons, and that electrons revolve around the nucleus. You may also remember that the number of protons in the atom tells you what "element" the material is. The names of some elements are iron, oxygen, gold, lead, helium and many others. One other example is an element called Uranium.
Uranium occurs naturally on Earth. Some elements, such as plutonium, do not. You don't have to remember plutonium though. Uranium has an atomic number of 92. Does anyone remember what that means? Ettarose? Yes, it means uranium has 92 protons in its nucleus. Good girl! Of course it also has... what?... yes, neutrons and electrons. Good, Angelika!
Uranium is a metal, considerably denser than lead, and is a silvery-gray color when refined. Ummm... like lead. Some elements have variations in their atomic structure, and these variations are called "isotopes."
Canucklehead, you have not been paying attention. Tell the class what an isotope is, please. What? A baseball player on the triple-A team owned by the Dodgers located in Albuquerque? And they serve beer there? Correct, but we are not talking about baseball right now. Pay attention, please.
You may recall that besides protons, an atom's nucleus also contains small particles called neutrons. What's that Janet? Yes, we made fun of neutrons because they had no electrical charge. Some atoms of the same element have different numbers of neutrons. Each variation in the number of neutrons is called an isotope of that element. For example, uranium-235 is one variation, or isotope, of the element uranium. Uranium-238 is another possible isotope of the same element.
An interesting thing about uranium-235 is that if you bombard its nucleus with an outside source of slow neutrons, you can make it's nucleus split apart (fission). What, Descartes? Why, yes! - just like slamming a cue ball into a group of other pool balls. Great analogy! Pow, pow, pow! ::Ralphie's old man is nervous now: "Carefull now... they go all over!"::
Yes, Lidian, very cool indeed. But that's not the REALLY cool part. No. Can you tell us what the REALLY cool part is, little A.? Little A.? Little A., don't pretend you are invisible. Everyone can see you sitting there. Anyone? Anyone? Alison?
Why, YES, little Alison! The really cool part is that when you break apart the nucleus, the pieces fly off and break apart the nucleus-us-us... nuclei... of other atoms. So cool, indeed! Thank you Alison! You have been reading your little Nuclear Reaction book, I see!
So... once you get the fission (splitting) nuclear reaction started, it just keeps going on its own! And going, and going, and going, and going... wake up Canuck.
But, another very important thing is, when the nuclei break apart, HEAT is also given off. True! Slam! Pop! Split! Burrrrrrnnn! Right, Sheila! Nine-ball in the side pocket! Go for it class! ::turns up hip hop music really loud as tykes get on their feet and duck their heads up and down to the beat:: Yes! do the "neutron slam", Debbie! Slam! Bam! Pop! SPLIT! -- Burrrrrnnnn!
Okay, sit down now, please. ::Turns off the music::
Who would like to see a picture of a nuclear reactor at work? ::Everyone raises their hands::
Look up at the projection on the wall, children. A beautiful unearthly blue. An online reactor at a nuclear power station. ::Class goes silent::
::Quietly:: "The primal power of the universe. Yes, oddly frightening..."
(To be continued in an upcoming post)