Monday, May 17, 2010

Maxwell's Demon

The Scottish mathematician James Clerk Maxwell introduced a useful little helper later dubbed Maxwell's Demon. Maxwell's demon could open and shut little windows for individual molecules and Maxwell used it to enable some thought experiments which violated the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

I need a nuclear equivalent to Maxwell's molecular demon: something that can go in and transmute elements into those one higher or lower in atomic number while leaving things like the electronic configuration alone. What I really want to do is to mentally change carbon atoms into boron atoms or carbon atoms into nitrogen atoms, or nitrogen atoms into oxygen atoms, all just to make a couple pedantic points:

Carbon - (1 proton, 1 neutron, & 1 electron)  = Boron


Carbon + (1 proton, 1 neutron, & 1 electron) = Nitrogen


Nitrogen + (1 proton, 1 neutron, & 1 electron) = Oxygen

The new little demon can transmute dinitrogen into carbon monoxide, dinitrogen into dioxygen, and ethane into amino borane:

N2 --->  CO

N2 --->  O2

CH3CH3 --->   BH3NH3