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"If you have a gut response to a story, you are not responding to something new ..you are really responding to a story you were told when you were six or seven…"
- Samuel R. Delany

Quench Field  
  Stopped runaway nuclear reactions by quenching the cascades of neutrons.  

The warning device was a result of the labors of that Edison of the spaceways, old Dr. Eonck. He’d invented the attachment to a U-235 plant that emanated a static quench-field to act as a governor to the neutron-streams that activated the uranium. It made the neutron-streams that much more inefficient, but who cared about that with all that powder to throw around? The important thing was that it blanketed the disintegration to some extent. If the thing was going to blow up with the fury that only an atomic explosion or a supernova can show, it would at least start to blow up slowly. That is, when the reaction started to accelerate beyond control, the quench-field got in the way of the countless millions of neutrons, tending to add a positron to them, and convert them into useless, harmless hydrogen nuclei. It meant a slowing down of the whole process, until the neutrons came too fast. Then — lights out.


('The Purple Light' by E.Walter Hunter)

But at the same time it gave the poor sucker in the ship, or wherever else the plant was, a few minutes grace in which to get away from there.

From The Purple Light, by E. Waldo Hunter.
Published by Astounding Science Fiction in 1941
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