This week's theme - a series of somewhat playful poems by scientists on various scientific topics
(Poem #795) The Perils of Modern Living
Well up above the tropostrata There is a region stark and stellar Where, on a streak of anti-matter Lived Dr. Edward Anti-Teller. Remote from Fusion's origin, He lived unguessed and unawares With all his antikith and kin, And kept macassars on his chairs. One morning, idling by the sea, He spied a tin of monstrous girth That bore three letters: A. E. C. Out stepped a visitor from Earth. Then, shouting gladly o'er the sands, Met two who in their alien ways Were like as lentils. Their right hands Clasped, and the rest was gamma rays.
Notes: Originally published in the New Yorker, 1956 Tropostrata: More correctly, 'troposphere', the lowest region of the atmosphere (extending to about 18km, where it gives way to the stratosphere) AEC: The US Atomic Energy Commission. [broken link] http://www.ch.doe.gov/history/AEC.htm Macassars: A pun on 'antimacassar', a chair cover Who says scientists have no sense of play? The more interesting branches of modern physics (i.e., almost all of them) have done more than capture the imaginations of several generations of scientists - they have, in several cases, moved them to quirky, whimsical and above all delightful verse. Part of the reason is, I believe, that Science itself has begun to pass beyond the scope of observational 'common sense', and present conclusions that are in their own way as counterintuitive and magical as anything out of myth or fantasy. And not just magical - in many cases, the seeming incongruities are downright amusing, from relativity, as immortalised by the 'young lady named Bright', to quantum mechanics, whose paradoxes have spawned a whole genre of jokes, the turbulent boundary between what we expect and what we are assured is permeated by the foam of creativity.  Who travelled much faster than light She went out one day In a Relative way And returned on the previous night  "Wanted, dead or alive - Schrodinger's Cat", to quote just one Today's poem stems from that most famous of equations, E=mc^2, which tells us that if matter could be converted entirely to energy, there'd be an awful lot of it. It refers to antimatter, matter composed of antiparticles which, when they encounter their normal counterparts, annihilate each other in a burst of energy. Antimatter particles exist, but there is no evidence for antimaterial worlds, way up above the tropostrata or otherwise <g>. Biography: Bit early for that :) See instead http://www.pppl.gov/Workshops/furth/furth_announcement.html And, from a summary of an article about Furth and his 'best known publication', Lois Wingerson, "Harold Furth -- Fusion's Front Man", New Scientist, 9 Sep 1982, pp.701-704, scientist who "seemed far more likely to end up as a minor poet", won poetry awards, wrote a famous poem about Edward Teller in New Yorker, 1956; -- http://www.magicdragon.com/UltimateSF/sfpo-6pt0.html And here's a biography of Teller http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu=73469&tocid=0 Links: The closest we've had to poetry by a scientist is Hein's 'On Problems' (Poem #668) We've had some science-themed poems, though: Poem #54: Walt Whitman, 'When I heard the Learn'd Astronomer' Poem #57: E. E. Cummings, 'pity this busy monster, manunkind' and, of course, Poem #490: Tom Lehrer, 'The Elements' Tangentially related is the Mathematics theme we ran a while ago: Poem #599 Rita Dove 'Geometry' Poem #601 E. V. Rieu 'Hall and Knight' Poem #604 Edna St. Vincent Millay 'Euclid Alone Has Looked On Beauty Bare' As usual, theme suggestions and guest poems are welcome; note the dual constraint, though - the poem must be both by a scientist and on some scientific topic. -martin