Friday, 20 February 2009

An Alpha Ray

Air: “A Jovial Monk”

I. An alpha ray was I, contended with my lot;
From Radium C
I was set free,
And outwards I was shot.
My speed I quickly reckoned,
As I flew off through space,
Ten thousand miles per second
Is not a trifling pace!

For an alpha ray
Goes a good long way
In a short time t,
As you easily see,
Though I don’t know why
My speed’s so high,
Or why I bear a charge 2e.

2. And in my wild career, as swiftly on I flew,
A rarefied gas
Wouldn’t let me pass,
But I pushed my way right through.
I had some lively tussles
To make it ionize,
But I set the small corpuscles
A-buzzing round like flies.

For an alpha ray
Hasn’t time to stay
While a trifling mass
Of expanded gas,
That stands in awe
Of Maxwell’s law,
Obstructs the road when I want to pass.

3. An electroscope looked on, as I made that gas conduct;
Beneath the field
The gas did yield
And the leaf was greatly “bucked.”
But in my exultation
I lost my senses clean,
And I made a scintillation
As I struck a zinc-blende screen

For an alpha ray
Makes a weird display
With fluorescence green
On a zinc-blende screen
When the room’s quite dark,
You see a spark
That marks the spot where I have been.

4. But now I’m settled down, and move about quite slow;
For I, alas,
Am helium gas
Since I got that dreadful blow.
But though I’m feeling sickly,
Still no one now denies,
That I ran that race so quickly
I’ve won a Nobel Prize.

For an alpha ray
Is a thing to pay,
And a Nobel Prize
One can not despise,
And Rutherford
Has greatly scored,
As all the world now recognise.


From The Post-Prandial Proceedings of the Cavendish Physical Society (1911 4th edition), pp. 14-15.

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