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Bobby Joe and Bubba and Fission and Fusion

John W. Pinkerton


After another day of hard work at the plant, Bobby Joe and Bubba seated themselves on their usual stools, ordered their beers and commenced their usual debriefing of their day.

“Bobby Joe, you ever heard of fission?”

“You mean like it's not true?”

“No, f-i-s-s-i-o-n.”

“Yeah, kinda.  Science folks been talkin' 'bout that for ages…I think since the 50's.”

“Well, Bobby Joe, since you seem to be the local barroom expert on the subject, explain to me the difference between “fission” and “fusion.”

Bobby Joe began to twirl a finger in the air as though he were conjuring up a thought.

“Well, Bubba, you naturally know about atomic energy.  We've got a few atomic plants around the country you don't hear much about because they seem to do a pretty good job---I think there's one close to Austin---but every once in a while one gets out of hand and folks get excited and start praying to Jesus that the ding dang thing doesn't melt a hole to China and doesn't turn us all into glowing frogmen.”

“Seems like a legitimate concern.”

“Well, yeah, but they've gotten better at keepin' it tamed.”

“Being the brilliant man you are,  answer me this: what's the difference between fission and fusion?”

Bobby Joe began to twirl his finger in the air once again and then proclaimed: “Fission is the splitting of an atom into two or more smaller ones while fusion is the fusing of two or more smaller atoms into a larger one.”

“Whooee, Bobby Joe, ain't you the smart one.”

“Billie Jean doesn't think so.”

“Yeah, but she loves you.”

“Okay, Einstein, which one is better?”

“Fusion.  Fission uses radioactive uranium whereas fusion can use just about anything to join with something else.  Both produce heat which boils water and drives turbines that produces electricity.”

“Once again, Bobby Joe, whooee.”

“Thanks.  I was good at science in high school, and I read stuff.”

“The newspaper article I was readin' said there had been a major breakthrough in fusion.  Didn't sound like much, but they bragged that they produced more energy than they put into joining those atoms and promised in about 20 years they may figure out the whole thing.”

“There was a guy back in the 50's who said fusion energy would be so cheap, we wouldn't even have to pay for it.  Of course, he was a fool.  By the time they figure the fusion thing out, build plants, and the government takes their pound of flesh, it will still cost a lot, but it's still for the good.  At least we won't have to worry about the radioactive waste from fission or melting a hole to China.”

“Bobby Joe, what you doin' this weekend?”


“Me too.”

“You want to come over and watch the Cowboys with me Sunday?”

“I just might.  I'll check with Billie Jean.  You know, I think we are more likely to see fusion before we see a Super Bowl win by the Cowboys.”