We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Cat's Cradle

Cat's Cradle


by Kurt Vonnegut

Cat's Cradle Chapter 20 Summary


  • Prepare for a drastic turn into science fiction.
  • Dr. Breed explains that liquids can crystallize in several ways depending on the order their atoms are stacked and locked in.
  • He suggests visualizing the way cannonballs are stacked in front of courthouses.
  • If the atoms are stacked in different ways, even if from the same substance, the crystal will have drastically different properties.
  • Once one pattern of stacking atoms is introduced into a system, all other matter in the system must stack to fit the initial pattern.
  • Science Snack: All atoms in a crystal must be stacked and ordered in the same fashion. If they aren't, then it isn't a crystal.
  • So, Hoenikker proposed a seed that could be introduced to the water. It would introduce a form of atom stacking that they'll just call ice-nine. The water atoms when matching the form would be solid and have a melting point of, let's say, 130 degrees.
  • Before the conversation can continue, the Girl Pool arrives singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem."
  • But they mess up one of the lines—oops—singing: "The hopes and fears of all the years are here with us tonight" (20.14).

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...