The Quantum's Plight

A lively little quantum went darting through the air,
Just as energetic quanta go speeding everywhere.
He had traveled far -- this quantum -- urged as if by some far call,
When he saw a lonely atom with no signs of pep at all,
And he started for that atom in the highest elation,
Said he: "Here's where I show the world a trick of transmutation.
I'm going to hit that atom such an awful, awful whack,
That I'll knock out its electrons so far they can't get back."
So he gave that peaceful atom such an energetic shove,
That its outermost electrons soared to levels far above.
Then the atom got excited, and it held the quantum fast,
Until the last electron came tumbling back at last.
Then the quantum was released again, and fled in degradation,
While the atom got the credit for a lot of radiation.

-- E.H. Johnson

Written by a physics professor at Kenyon College in Gambier,
Ohio. This poem was the first winner of a weekly scientific
poetry contest run by Science Service in 1927.