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Old 02-23-2002, 06:47 AM
Margaret Moore Margaret Moore is offline
Join Date: Jan 2002
Posts: 2,314

Has anyone else a pet poem which addresses a scientific topic or makes use of scientific tropes? As Rebecca Elson's challenge to Theories of Everything is in free form, I've plumped for a relativistic confection of Louis MacNeice's, which was composed in April 1939. Logically shaky, I admit - but also wittily tender.

Meeting point

Time was away and somewhere else,
There were two glasses and two chairs
And two people with the one pulse
(Somebody stopped the moving stairs):
Time was away and somewhere else.

And they were neither up nor down;
The stream's music did not stop
Flowing through heather, limpid brown,
Although they sat in a coffee shop
And they were neither up nor down.

The bell was silent in the air
Holding its inverted poise -
Between the clang and clang a flower,
A brazen calyx of no boise:
The bell was silent in the air.

The camels crossed the miles of sand
That stretched around the cups and plates;
The desert was their own, they planned
To portion out the stars and dates:
The camels crossed the miles of sand.

Time was away and somewhere else.
The waiter did not come, the clock
Forgot them and the radio waltz
Came out like water from a rock:
Time was away and somewhere else.

Her fingers flicked away the ash
That bloomed again in tropic trees:
Not caring if the markets crash
When they had forests such as these,
Her fingers flicked away the ash.

God or whatever means the Good
Be praised that time can stop like this,
That what the heart has understood
Can verify in the body's peace
God or whatever means the Good.

Time was away and she was here
And life no longer what it was,
The bell was silent in the air
And all the room one glow because
Time was away and she was here.

Not scientific enough for you? Well, maybe. But I doubt if it would have been written quite like that in pre-Einsteinian days. Margaret.
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Old 02-23-2002, 09:45 AM
A. E. Stallings A. E. Stallings is offline
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Athens, Greece
Posts: 3,206


What an intriguing idea for a thread! (or a string, a la string-theory perhaps?) I confess that I almost think there is too much science in poetry these days--it is very fashionable to slap a little on, in a show-offy epigraph, or what have you. And I wonder how many of these poets have any deep understanding of what they flaunt. But I certainly like the idea of scientific conceits in poesy very much. Of course the Muses were, originally, goddesses of science as well as arts (Urania, for one). And science and poetry used to be one and the same, as for instance the pre-Socratics (later emulated anachronistically by Lucretius). I'll be pondering this, and will return anon...

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Old 02-23-2002, 02:33 PM
bear_music bear_music is offline
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Cape Cod, MA, USA
Posts: 550


I've long been a junkie for poems written by scientists on obscure topics. Since "string theory" was brought up, chew on this one... (everything that follows is a paste)


Sheldon Glashow cautioned often against the over-enthusiasm of string theory. So he wrote this poem which I think is very cute.

Glashow's Poem

Let us honor the forces of unification
Believing in things such as nu oscillation
And mourn not the monojet that couldn't be deader
For Carlo* is coming with something much better.
The Seventh WOGU we have held in Toyama
While waiting for the death of all matta.
We must pity the student in his deep dark hole
Whose thesis depends on that one monopole**,
Or on solar neutrinos that wriggle about
Unless they are saying our sun has gone out***.
Some of us wonder how all things came to be
Leaving nary a clue but for old gravity,
And just seventeen particles, some of them quarks.
Maybe seventeen more and some of them squarks.****
Something happened, they say, out in Cygnus the Swan,
Don't bother to look 'cause now it's all gone.
The universe from Harvard looks like suds in the sink,
So crash your computers and take time to think.
The Theory of Everything, if you dare to be bold,
Might be something more than a string orbifold.
While some of your leaders have got old and sclerotic,
Not to be trusted alone with things heterotic,
Please heed our advice that you too are not smitten--
The Book is not finished, the last word is not Witten.*****

Sheldon Glashow, 7th WOGU, Toyama 1986.

* Carlo Rubbia discovered the Z and W bosons.
** The MACRO search for the monopole is in an underground chamber.
*** The solar neutrino problem states that over production of neutrinos in the sun means that the energy losses from the sun will be much greater, thus it will have a shorter lifespan.
**** Supersymmetry predicts that each elementary particle has it's own "supersymmetric partner, added with a "s" or "o" at the back.
***** Ed Witten occupies position 1 to 5 in the Top Ten List of the Smartest String Theorist Alive.
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Old 03-01-2002, 07:53 AM
graywyvern graywyvern is offline
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: dallas
Posts: 718

though it's been awhile since i read it, there's
a lot of science-based tropes in Richard Kenney's
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Old 03-11-2002, 10:00 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is online now
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: New York
Posts: 14,113

by John Updike

Neutrinos, they are very small.
They have no charge and have no mass
And do not interact at all.
The earth is just a silly ball
To them, through which they simply pass,
Like dustmaids through a drafty hall
Or photons through a sheet of glass.
They snub the most exquisite gas,
Ignore the most substantial wall,
Cold-shoulder steel and sounding brass,
Insult the stallion in his stall,
And scorning barriers of class,
Infiltrate you and me! Like tall
And painless guillotines, they fall
Down through our heads into the grass.
At night, they enter at Nepal
And pierce the lover and his lass
From underneath the bed - you call
It wonderful; I call it crass.

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Old 03-12-2002, 09:37 AM
Margaret Moore Margaret Moore is offline
Join Date: Jan 2002
Posts: 2,314

Roger, Really liked that. Am familiar with Updike's fiction - must catch up with his verse, Margaret.
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Old 03-14-2002, 05:56 AM
Solan Solan is offline
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Grimstad, home of Ibsen and Hamsun
Posts: 833

Excellent idea for thread. I have looked for mathematical poems, and have unfortunately not been very impressed with what I have found so far.

My not very well veiled desire is to be a Good Mathematical Poet (as well as a Metaphysical and Nonsensical Poet). But surely someone must have thought of - and succeeded with - such ambitions before? The material and metaphors are plenty. Should make for good nursery rhyming, too, as someone made me aware of with "As one said to two, and two said to three ..."


Svein Olav

.. another life
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