Critical Mass

Danger - Alco-active!

Danger – Alco-active!

Critical Mass
Not too long ago, there were so many people named David in our office – I was designated D7.   I couldn’t bear this burden in silence….

Are Davids a critical component in your workplace?
– a study of the phenomenology of multiple Davids in confinement

(original text shamelessly adapted from by Dave Belton)

Critical mass
A critical mass is the smallest number of Davids needed for a sustained frenetic chain reaction.  The critical mass of Davids depends upon their properties e.g. their density, their shape, their enrichment, their purity, as well as temperature, and surroundings.  Debate rages in science as to the existence of pure David.  This has yet to be observed in nature.  Theorists, however, have postulated the existence of primordial David, a simple, uncomplicated precursor to the less pure, potentially-unstable varieties of David currently inhabiting the office.  One of the less common varieties is the highly-volatile weapons-grade David, a frequent foot in mouth casualty.

Explanation of criticality
The term critical refers to an equilibrium reaction (steady-state or continuous chain reaction); this is where there is no overt increase or decrease in corporate power, business effectiveness, or general impression of Davids on work colleagues.  A numerical measure of a critical mass is dependent on the opinion multiplication factor, k, where:   k = f − l ,  and f is the average number of opinions released per David event and l is the average number of opinions lost by either leaving the system or being captured in by a non-David event (these exceedingly rare events are where someone else actually accepts an opinion espoused by a David). When k = 1 the mass is critical.
A subcritical mass is a mass of Davids too few to sustain an exchange of opinions or a sports discussion. A population of opinions introduced to a subcritical assembly of Davids will exponentially decrease their work output, typically rapidly. In this case, k < 1.   A steady rate of spontaneous opinions causes a proportional steady level of frenetic activity.   The constant of proportionality increases as k increases.   A supercritical mass is one where there is an increasing rate of expression of ideas and opinions.   The group of Davids may settle into equilibrium (ie. become critical again) at an elevated fuel or power level or destroy itself (disassembly is an equilibrium state). In the case of supercriticality, k > 1.

Changing the point of criticality
The point, and therefore the mass, where criticality occurs may be changed by modifying certain attributes, such as fuel (eg. NZ Sauvignon Blanc, German beer, Single Malt Whiskey), shape, temperature, density (although uniformly high), and the installation of a opinion-reflective third party. These attributes have complex interactions and interdependencies, this section explains only the simplest ideal cases.

Varying the amount of fuel
It is possible to fuel an assembly of Davids so as to be critical at near zero power. If the perfect quantity of fuel were added to a slightly subcritical mass to create an “exactly critical mass”, opinion activity would be self-sustaining for the whole assembly (conversely, excess fuel consumption tends to make an assembly of Davids subcritical).   If the perfect quantity of fuel were added to a slightly subcritical mass, to create a barely supercritical mass, the temperature of the assembly would increase to an initial maximum (for example: 1 K above the ambient party activity) and then decrease back to a quiet social event after a period of time, because fuel consumed by the Davids brings the assembly back to subcriticality once again.

Changing the shape
A mass may be exactly critical, but not a perfect homogeneous sphere. Changing the shape to be closer to a perfect sphere will make the mass supercritical. It has been observed that longterm consumption of fuel has a noticeable effect on the shape of Davids. The natural tendency, as Davids age, is to approach the spherical geometry. This too, would appear to have a linear correlation to the uptake of fuel. Conversely, changing the shape to be further from a sphere will decrease its reactivity, making it subcritical.

Changing the temperature
A mass of Davids may be exactly critical at a particular temperature – usually early in social gatherings. Opinion expression and absorption cross-sections decrease with the inverse of relative anecdote frequency. As fuel and local temperature increases, opinions and anecdotes of a diminishing plausibility appear faster and thus absorption/acceptance is less likely. This is not unrelated to doppler broadening seen in the form of rapid speech with developing slurring, but is common to all fuel absorbers, but particularly Davids. Neglecting the very important gender resonances, the total stupidity cross section of Davids exhibits an linear relationship with relative fuel and party activity. Hot fuel is always more reactive than cold fuel. Thermal expansion associated with temperature rise also contributes a negative coefficient of sensibility, since fuel atoms are farther apart. A mass that is exactly critical at room temperature would be super-critical in an environment anywhere above room temperature due to thermal expansion alone.

Varying the density of the mass
The higher the density, the lower the critical mass of Davids. Although uniformly high (perhaps the highest in any organisational structure!), the density of Davids at a constant temperature can be changed by varying the pressure or tension or by changing management structure. An ideal mass of Davids will become subcritical if allowed to expand their influence or conversely the same mass of Davids will become supercritical if compressed into a small office space. Changing the temperature may also change the density, however the effect on critical mass is then complicated by the interpersonal effects and by how the Davids cope with increased bureaucracy. Davids are said to have a negative coefficient of productivity to indicate that their productivity decreases when temperature or fuel increases.

Whew! Now I feel better!


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