critical mass

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critical mass:

see chain reactionchain reaction,
self-sustaining reaction that, once started, continues without further outside influence. Proper conditions for a chain reaction depend not only on various external factors, such as temperature, but also on the quantity and shape of the substance undergoing the
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Critical Mass


the smallest mass of a fissionable substance at which a self-sustaining fission chain reaction of atomic nuclei can occur; it is characterized by the approach of the neutron multiplication factor to 1. The corresponding dimensions and volume of the device in which a chain reaction takes place are also called critical.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

critical mass

[′krid·ə·kəl ′mas]
The mass of fissionable material of a particular shape that is just sufficient to sustain a nuclear chain reaction.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

critical mass

In physics, the minimum amount of fissionable material required to sustain a chain reaction. Of a software product, describes a condition of the software such that fixing one bug introduces one plus epsilon bugs. (This malady has many causes: creeping featurism, ports to too many disparate environments, poor initial design, etc.) When software achieves critical mass, it can never be fixed; it can only be discarded and rewritten.
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