Song of the Stray Electron
I wrote the following poem in 1989 we commissioned the ADITYA tokamak which produces plasmas at temperatures of 5 Million Degrees at the Institute for Plasma Research in Gandhinagar. The tokamaks discharge starts with an electric field being induced around the torus which accelerates stray electrons to sufficient energy for them to ionize gas molecules and produce electron-ion pairs. The product electrons and the parent electrons are further accelerated to produce two new electron-ion pairs. This process, called an avalanche continues until the chamber gets filled with billions of electron ion pairs, which is the plasma, the stuff that stars are made of. This poem is about a tokamak discharge from the perspective of the ‘stray’ electron, which starts the whole process.
Transient in birth, quirk of a cosmic photon trapped in this shell made of steel and viton dreading my fate, the burial in steel, I thought I could hear the distant mind say, ‘Begin the shot’! and I realized that my predestined part was that I should kindle a starfire in Bhat.
Stroked by the tendrils of the induction field, decreed by Lenz and Faraday, to yield and start my free fall, inertia and all round and round, away from the silvery wall caught in the clasp of this magnetic maze survival of the fastest is the secret of this race.
By now, we are a crowd, those who started late have also joined the race, given the mandate to jostle the atoms, excite a few.
Deep in the torus is the shade of a glow before the distant mind could say avalanche we have gone forth and multiplied in revanche.
Companions freed from the bondage a la Bohr collective consciousness begins to soar the transient surge over, transformer will soon tire Catch the impure, burn them in our fire.
Break through the barriers, radiation and others soar to the flat top, promised by the designers.
We dance, saw teeth and radiate in a ring of fire, primeval, inchoate you outside who listen to our heart beat it shall not matter that we shall quench or disrupt if only you would say in our obit that, for a moment, we made a starlet.
An Ode to ITER
I wrote this poem in 2007 while visiting Aix en Provence in connection with negotiating India’s plan to become a party to building the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). ITER, a miniature sun on earth is a complex machine where cleverly designed magnetic field topology would trap and confine a Hydrogen-Deuterium plasma at 100 millions of degrees from losing particles and heat. The reactor is making good progress though slowed done by technology issues. In one of the many visits to Cadarache during the ITER negotiations, I was taken to the site where ITER would eventually be built. The site is now a busy complex with hundreds of physicists and engineers fighting against time to produce the first plasma.
In the rocky wilderness of Cadarache wizards from seven lands will converge to build a great temple to Prometheus with the sun replicated and bound in a torus.
Remember all those lifetimes spent and lost Searching, researching and hoping to find those secrets we thought would lead us to plan the temple of sun that would one day be built.
Pinches, mirrors, torii, traps so diverse, pellets of ice to be lit by lasers; fusion in bubbles and alchemist’s jars chasing the dreams that remind you of stars.
Remember too then the furious fights on selecting the most auspicious site and the rules, protocols, none too simple for tending the sacred fire in the temple.
Here at last we spin the magnetic web and hold the plasma as storms rise and ebb lighter than mist and purer than pure hotter than sun for the nuclear fire.
Centuries hence new myths will go forth on how at last the Sun came down to earth and how Prometheus was finally freed not by the gods but by human spirit.