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chain reaction

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noun
  1. Physics. a self-sustaining reaction in which the fission of nuclei of one generation of nuclei produces particles that cause the fission of at least an equal number of nuclei of the succeeding generation.
  2. Chemistry. a reaction that results in a product necessary for the continuance of the reaction.
  3. a series of events in which each event is the result of the one preceding and the cause of the one following.
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Origin of chain reaction

First recorded in 1925–30
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for chain reaction

Historical Examples

  • Robertson figured out what would happen, with the chain-reaction.

    This Crowded Earth

    Robert Bloch

  • Use what he developed and the chain-reaction would never end.

    This Crowded Earth

    Robert Bloch

  • The story spread in a manner that could only be described as chain-reaction in character.

    Operation: Outer Space

    William Fitzgerald Jenkins


British Dictionary definitions for chain reaction

chain reaction

noun
  1. a process in which a neutron colliding with an atomic nucleus causes fission and the ejection of one or more other neutrons, which induce other nuclei to split
  2. a chemical reaction in which the product of one step is a reactant in the following step
  3. a series of rapidly occurring events, each of which precipitates the next
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Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

chain reaction in Medicine

chain reaction

n.
  1. A series of events in which each induces or influences the next.
  2. A series of chemical reactions in which one product of a reacting set is a reactant in the following set.
  3. A multistage nuclear reaction, especially a self-sustaining series of fissions in which the release of neutrons from the splitting of one atom leads to the splitting of others.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

chain reaction in Science

chain reaction

  1. A process in which the result of one event triggers another event, usually of the same kind, which in turn triggers yet another event, so that the overall reaction tends to be self-sustaining. Nuclear fission reactions are chain reactions, in which the splitting of an atomic nucleus releases neutrons that penetrate other nuclei, causing them to split. The spread of heat through a substance is also a chain reaction, as fast-moving molecules in a hot part of the substance collide with neighboring molecules, passing on their kinetic energy to them, thereby making more of the substance warmer. See more at fission. See Note at nuclear reactor. See also kinetic theory.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

chain reaction in Culture

chain reaction

In chemistry and physics, a self-sustaining series of reactions. In a chain reaction in a uranium-based nuclear reactor, for example, a single neutron causes the nucleus of a uranium atom to undergo fission. In the process, two or three more neutrons are released. These neutrons start more fissions, which produce more neutrons, and so on.

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Note

Figuratively speaking, any group of events linked so that one is the cause of the next can be called a “chain reaction.”
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with chain reaction

chain reaction

A series of events in which each influences or gives rise to the next event, as in If one person collects substantial damages by suing a company, you can expect a chain reaction of such lawsuits. The term originated in the physical sciences, first (1920s) chemistry and later (1940) physics; in the latter it denotes a process of nuclear fission. By the 1940s it had been transferred to more general use.

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.