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HELP: What is your favourite science poem?

Next Wednesday I am giving a lecture to a first-year poetry class on the "Physics of Poetry". In this talk I am going to discuss some of the connections between physics & poetry that I have encountered. I need some help though. Specifically, I would like to find out three things:

  1. Some examples of poems that discuss Science? (ie When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer).
  2. Has poetry influenced the way you see the world?
  3. As a scientist, has poetry influenced your work or the way you share your work?

Any suggestions, thoughts, or comments people have would be greatly appreciated!

Photon! Photon!

With apologies to William Blake Photon! Photon! Forming Flight, In the lab as dark as night. What nonlinear order Chi Could spring entangled Symmetry?

In what distant laser dyes Sparked thy subtle wave-like guise? What on resonance transpires? On what level lasing fires?

And what calcite, and what part? Could squeeze thy spin with such art? And when thy mode began to lock, What short pulse, and what short clock

What the Amplitude? What the Phase? Of this single-photon craze? What the particle? What dread thought In what paradox are we caught?

When the stars threw down their spears, That travelled for a million years, Did the correlations bunch? Just like Twiss and the other's hunch?

Photon! Photon! Forming Flight, In the lab as dark as night. What nonlinear order Chi Could spring entangled Symmetry?

—Krister Shalm 2010

This is the poem that I wrote for my PhD thesis. I have been meaning to post it for awhile now.



Karma, Dharma, Pudding & Pie by Philip Appleman

My earlier post on astrology reminded me of Philip Appleman's book of poems Karma, Dharma, Pudding & Pie. One of my favourite poems is entitled "Horoscope". Here is a short excerpt from that poem for your enjoyment.

Back in college I had a girl friend, Sue, who'd never heard of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and couldn't have cared less that E=mc squared: and if you asked her who Darwin was, Sue'd say he's a theory, not a fact.

But there was this one Indisputably Scientific Thing Sue saw so clearly: that the sun, due to Electro-Magnetic Vibrations, Dominates the Personality--give or take some minor manipulations from the Moon, Which, as everyone knows, rules the emotions; Mars and Venus, which govern speech and love; et cetera, et cetera.

No use objecting that she was dishing out a lot of pre- historic goulash cooked up by the Chaldeans (and if they're so smart, where are they now?)-- Sue wouldn't listen. I should have dated that other girl, the down-to earth geology major, and gone somewhere and hammered. But Sue always seemed so happy. We were "Getting Along So Well," she said, because our Signs were Compatible-- the stars and planets had got us matched up right, like a cosmic computer date.

I highly recommend picking up this slim, but pricey, book. It is full of wit, humour and wonderful illustrations.

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch…

... you must first invent the universe. This may be the best opening to a documentary ever.

Here is a recipe for Carl Sagan's famous apple pie (by Neven Mrgan).

Carl Sagan was more than just an astrophysicist. He was a poet. He had a way of making what is distant tangible; of conveying the joy of discovery and the sense of mystery and wonderment that make "doing" science so satisfying.

It is estimated that his 1980 series "Cosmos" has been seen by over one billion people. Below is one of my favourite clips from the series: "Pale Blue Dot".

John Gruber recently linked to an inspiring movie created by Michael Marantz of another "Pale Blue Dot" excerpt:

Update: For the voyeurs out there, here is a picture of Carl Sagan's house in Ithaca, NY (via Caitlin Wellman).