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  #1  
Unread 04-11-2019, 03:53 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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Default Quasar

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Cosmic Hunger


The darkest and the most quiescent brute
gives rise to a phenomenon so bright
we see it from nine billion light years off.
Imagine how the thing would strike you if
the laws of nature tweaked themselves to let
you travel faster than the speed of light
and view the inferno whipping round the colossus
from just enough away (you must be cautious!)
that nearby stars don’t hear a happy slurp.
Would you be carbonized by its deadly slap?
In fact, it wouldn’t be there any longer.
Even a well-built quasar cannot linger
when that gullet of a galaxy has fed
and grazed and grown, consuming all its food,
then dormant as the dogwood trees in fall
after their crowns of blazing foliage fail
to draw the daylight in. Still, do not wander
too near that chasm! Speaking of which, I wonder
if there’s an equally voracious threat
lurking in our Milky Way, a throat
dying for a taste of earthy meat
eyeing this living Lilliputian mote.



Further tweaks:

L9: "that" for "so"
L17: "Still!" for "Yet"
Took out exclamation point at the end of the poem.
Changed title.



Cosmic Yin-Yang

The darkest and the most quiescent brute
gives rise to a phenomenon so bright
we see it from nine billion light years off.
Imagine how the thing would strike you if
the laws of nature tweaked themselves to let
you travel faster than the speed of light
and view the inferno screaming round the demon
from just enough away from its domain
so nearby stars don’t hear a happy slurp.
Would you be carbonized by its deadly slap?
In fact, it wouldn’t be there any longer.
Nothing in the universe can linger
for such a multiplicity of days
and years and eons. Even a quasar dies
when that gullet of a galaxy has fed
and grazed and grown, consuming all its food,
then dormant as the dogwood trees in fall
after their crowns of blazing foliage fail
to furnish chlorophyll. Yet do not wander
too near that chasm! Speaking of which, I wonder
if there’s an equally voracious threat
lurking in our Milky Way, a throat
dying for a taste of earthy meat
eyeing this living Lilliputian mote!

Last edited by Martin Elster; 04-16-2019 at 09:53 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 04-11-2019, 05:18 PM
Bill Carpenter Bill Carpenter is offline
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Thanks for your speculations, Martin. Is there a word for this kind of rhyme?

Are you describing a supernova in the first several lines? Where does a quasar fall on the stellar life-cycle? Does a dead quasar turn into a black hole, or only if it's a certain size? Is a black hole on its way to shrinking to a point and disappearing? Quite sublime and terrible transformations compared to the dormancy and reawakening of an earthly dogwood.
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  #3  
Unread 04-11-2019, 08:35 PM
Daniel Recktenwald's Avatar
Daniel Recktenwald Daniel Recktenwald is offline
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Hey, Martin.

Thanks for this. I enjoyed it a lot. I'll be back to re-read.

I admire your consonance very much. Janus-headed or multi-consonant consonance in most places, no less. The crafting is great fun to read, and once recognized, to read for.

I recently tried to pull a trick in a poem: withhold a full rhyme until "the big finish." Tease it, approach it, slip past it. ("Edge" the reader, if you take my meaning.) I failed, but failed consistently! Get me within a light year of a rhyme's event horizon, and I'm done.

You have deftly, playfully succeeded in not falling into rhyme. I wonder if the intent was, in part, to play on cruising near a black hole without crashing in? Fun!

I barely passed Astronomy, but I think the subject line of your thread is misleading. It is a black hole you write of, yes? Aren't they alleged to be at the centers of galaxies? (Don't know if quasars are related to the kind of singularity that hit the news recently. I'll bone up before rereading.)

In any case, many delights in this.

Best regards for now,
Daniel
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Unread 04-11-2019, 09:01 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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Hi Bill,

Thanks for stopping by! I wrote this poem a few years and pretty much forgot about it — until yesterday's big news about the first photograph ever taken of a black hole. You know what a quasar is, but for those who don’t, here is a definition.

Quote:
quasar | ˈkwāˌzär |
noun Astronomy
a massive and extremely remote celestial object, emitting exceptionally large amounts of energy, and typically having a starlike image in a telescope. It has been suggested that quasars contain massive black holes and may represent a stage in the evolution of some galaxies.
ORIGIN
1960s: contraction of quasi-stellar.
And here is the Wikipedia article.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quasar

So, to answer your question about the first several lines, they are describing a quasar (not a supernova). The poem then gets kind of science-fictiony, and at the end, I take some poetic license in saying that the supermassive black hole in the core of the Milky Way (quiescent these days) could potentially pose a threat to Earth. It cannot, of course. It’s too far away, and we would have to be near enough to feel its gravitational tug, very close to its event horizon to get pulled into its monstrous maw.

You ask: Does a quasar turn into a black hole. Actually, it is a black hole, but the accretion disc of gas and dust circling around it gets heated to tremendous temperatures and radiates electromagnetic waves (photons) which take billions of years to reach our telescopes.
Most galaxies have supermassive black holes in their hearts, some quiescent, others active.

I hope the mention of the dogwood tree isn’t too much of an earthly comparison.

PS - I cross-posted with Daniel, to whom I shall reply soon!

Last edited by Martin Elster; 04-11-2019 at 10:05 PM.
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Unread 04-11-2019, 09:27 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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Daniel - Many thanks for reading and commenting. Glad you enjoyed it.

A quasar is an active black hole in a very distant galaxy. As you know, the more distant a celestial object is, the older it is. Some quasars are so far away that they originated only a short time (millions of years) after the Big Bang. I posted a link to Wikipedia’s article about quasars in my reply to Bill. I think you’ll find it interesting, especially the paragraphs about our current understanding:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quasar..._understanding

I laughed at this: “Get me within a light year of a rhyme's event horizon, and I'm done.”

Also, I love your interpretation about the rhyming:

Quote:
You have deftly, playfully succeeded in not falling into rhyme. I wonder if the intent was, in part, to play on cruising near a black hole without crashing in? Fun!
I never took astronomy, but I’ve done a lot of reading and have learned some things. I also like watching videos featuring famous astrophysicists, cosmologists, and theoretical physicists like Neil DeGrass Tyson, Michio Kaku, Brian Green, and Lawrence Krauss. I recently watched some lectures by Richard Feynman, too, about the quantum world. He was a fascinating guy, and played conga drums!

Thanks again, Daniel.

Best,
Martin

PS - Here is a little article you may like.

http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/info/...ve-Black-Holes

Quote:
Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) / Supermassive Black Holes

Most galaxies contain at least one, and occasionally several, super-massive black holes at their center, although not all of them are actively "eating". Spitzer's infrared eyes are perfect for scouting the gluttonous black holes that are actively munching.

Because no light can escape a black hole, astronomers must detect the active ones indirectly. Active super-massive black holes feed on the giant rings of gas and dust that circle them. As this dusty material falls into the black hole at incredible speeds, friction causes the plunging particles to light up brilliantly, primarily in X-ray light. However, some of this falling dust also glows in the infrared.

In some cases, light generated by friction between the falling dust grains outshines the entire host galaxy. Astronomers refer to these objects as Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN). The munching super-massive black hole at the galaxy's core is called a quasar, which is one type of AGN.

With Spitzer's dust-piercing infrared eyes, astronomers have been able to find the populations of "missing" munching black holes. These cosmic gluttons were hidden from optical and X-ray telescopes by the veil of dust that circled them.

Last edited by Martin Elster; 04-11-2019 at 10:56 PM.
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Unread 04-12-2019, 05:59 AM
Bill Carpenter Bill Carpenter is offline
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Thanks, I was not understanding how a black hole could be a radio source.

As for the rhymes, how about demi-rime richissime?
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Unread 04-12-2019, 11:19 AM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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Hi Bill,

I'm glad all that info about quasars I shared (too much maybe!) was helpful.

Demi-rime richissime? Half of a very rich rhyme? Maybe. What I think of as a rich rhyme is an identical (or auto-) rhyme (bear/bear, hairy/hairy, element/element) that is also a homonym — like to/too/two, bore/boar, heal/heel, pealed/peeled, or wheel/we’ll/wheal.

The kind of rhyme I'm using here is what’s known as pararhyme (or frame rhyme). It’s what Wilfred Owen used in “Strange Meeting.” Do you know that poem? It’s a nightmare in hell.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poe...trange-meeting

In fact, that’s the poem that inspired me to try it, not just in this poem, but also in a couple of others.

Last edited by Martin Elster; 04-12-2019 at 04:51 PM. Reason: clarification
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Unread 04-12-2019, 02:37 PM
Erik Olson Erik Olson is offline
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Martin,

I find this rich with an imagination at once informed and adventurous. It succeeds, I think, in making the reader as curious about the remotest matter as an astronomer. Though the referents be far-flung, the imagery of the metaphors is earthly and thus palpable.

From the first, I am persuaded that the speaker knows something about the quasar he treats; for this reason, the speculation which proceeds seems less idle and more resonant.

Another reason for the efficacy of the metaphors is, obviously, the poetic skill brought to bear. I find myself partial to the noble and tasteful expression of the trees in your analogy:
Even a quasar dies
when that gullet of a galaxy has fed
and grazed and grown, consuming all its food,
then dormant as the dogwood trees in fall
after their crowns of blazing foliage fail
to furnish chlorophyll.
With all the deft poetic stops the speaker pulls out, the poem couches arcane wonders in terms that are more universally appreciable as more tangible. I was willing to be brought along.

Cheers,

Erik

P.S. The only moment I questioned was 'In fact.' This particular preamble signals to the ear that the supplying of some factoid or other is imminent; it smacks all too distinctly of Encyclopedia Britannica and the like I am afraid. As such, even if we give a fact here, it sounds better sans emphasizing the ensuing as an instance of fact-giving. That was it though. To conclude on a positive, would poetry of this type, supposing it received sufficient circulation in say a magazine, help bridge the wide gap between what excites the scientist in the ivory tower and the man on the street, as it were? I venture it might.

Last edited by Erik Olson; 04-12-2019 at 04:03 PM.
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Unread 04-12-2019, 05:35 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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Hi Erik,

Thanks very much for your thoughts and I’m happy you enjoyed this little space oddity. I’m especially grateful for your mentioning the dogwood analogy, which I’m glad works for you.

That “in fact” at the start of L11 is like saying “actually” or “as it happens” or “in truth” or “really.” I guess I could replace it with “Well, no” or “Why, no.”

Why no, it wouldn’t be there any longer.

But I’ll wait to see if “in fact” bothers anyone else before I tweak it.

Quote:
To conclude on a positive, would poetry of this type, supposing it received sufficient circulation in say a magazine, help bridge the wide gap between what excites the scientist in the ivory tower and the man on the street, as it were? I venture it might.
That’s great to hear! That would be nice, wouldn’t it? In fact (!), I think it would benefit society enormously if non-scientists knew more about science and developed a scientific outlook on life. The way technology is growing exponentially, people who are not up on things could get left behind or even out of a job. Politicians would be able to make more informed decisions, too, instead of what they usually do (and we all know what that is).

https://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/...cienceworks_18
https://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/...encetoolkit_01

Thanks again, Erik.

Best,
Martin
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Unread 04-12-2019, 08:01 PM
Erik Olson Erik Olson is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Elster View Post
That “in fact” at the start of L11 is like saying “actually” or “as it happens” or “in truth” or “really.” I guess I could replace it with “Well, no” or “Why, no.”
You make a good point about in fact. Come to think of it, I should qualify that my pause must stem rather from the literal sense of the word fact along with the telly ring of in fact , that, even if used in the way you explained, colors the utterance less than optimally in this poetic context. I am not deeply disturbed by it, nay, far from. I only wonder if there is not an equivalent to try on for size without that little unideal aspect. By way of example, from the OED:
c. in truth: in fact, as a fact; truly, really, actually.
Chiefly used to strengthen or emphasize a statement, esp. one which seems surprising or unlikely.
1727 D. Defoe A System of Magic: or, a history of the black art These people pretend to blame him, whereas in truth they ought only to blame themselves.
1795 E. Burke Letter 27 Nov. in Correspondences (1969) In truth, all these distempers pass my skill.
1884 D. Pae Eustace It was in truth a scene of great beauty.
1928 H. L. McBain Mankind The classical democracies of Athens and Rome were in truth only fairly wide aristocracies superstructed upon slavery.
1967 H. Davies New London Spy The West End baths are naturally more expensive and the amenities more elaborate although, in truth, the furnishings are faded and threadbare.
2010 D. Nicholls One Day In truth, he had never really seen the point of cuddling.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Elster View Post
That’s great to hear! That would be nice, wouldn’t it? In fact (!), I think it would benefit society enormously if non-scientists knew more about science and developed a scientific outlook on life. The way technology is growing exponentially, people who are not up on things could get left behind or even out of a job. Politicians would be able to make more informed decisions, too, instead of what they usually do (and we all know what that is).
I agree. Of course, not that every denizen should be a quantum doctor, but a better handle on even the rudimentary part of science does one well. To digress.

Last edited by Erik Olson; 04-12-2019 at 09:06 PM.
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