uranium 238

My mother’s brain is decaying;

The nuclear radiation kind of decay.

The kind of decay that emits poison,

The kind of decay that mutates the cells of everyone else around her.

My mother is going insane

And spilling gamma radiation all around her in a melted nucleic oil spill;

Alpha rays and beta rays and spliced genes and cancer cells,

Lab rats that can glow in the dark, malignant tumors, mismatched nucleotides, brain hemorrhages.

Helium-4, uranium-238, thorium-234; it’s all in the tap water now.

My mother’s liquidating brain is killing me,

My mother’s terrestrial gamma ray burst,

My mother’s cluster decay.

The RNA polymerase in her neurons unzips everything,

And glues it back together all wrong,

Forever changing changing the sequence of her once-beautiful nucleotides,

And shredding the genome–

That impossibly long and entirely incredible genome–

That, at some long-ago and watery point, I was given half of.

When will I start to decay?

Chien-Shiung Wu

March CAS Challenge - Day 16

She was and experimental physicist who contributed to nuclear physics. Wu worked on the Manhattan Project. She helped develop the process for separating uranium into uranium-235 and uranium-238 by gaseous diffusion. Her nicknames include “the First Lady of Physics” and the “Queen of Nuclear Research.”

“It is shameful that there are so few women in science… In China there are many, many women in physics. There is a misconception in America that women scientists are all dowdy spinsters. This is the fault of men. In Chinese society, a woman is valued for what she is, and men encourage her to accomplishments yet she remains eternally feminine.”