Poetry for Physicists
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POETRY FOR PHYSICISTS

About a year ago, while conducting Rutherford Backscattering Spectroscopy experiments in the 2 MEV Van de Graff Accelerator Lab, I was seized by a startling revelation. I am sure that I will look back on the insight as the happiest thought of my life. "What," I wondered to myself, bathed in the soft green glow from the controlling terminal, "would it be like if words meant things?" I was caught off guard. For in such an imaginary world, one could use words to say things that meant something! Emotions could be captured, laughter could be preservered, and thought could be expressed! I quickly recorded this profound discovery in my lab notebook before it had a chance to fade from my mind. The proof of my theorem was trivial in one and two dimensions, but I had a hard time extending it to the twenty-four dimensions in which we live. It wasn't until 6:00 AM the next morning that I realized the magnitude of what I had discovered. I had discovered the New Conservative Literature.

But what physics journal would publish this marvel of nature? I knew I was ahead of my time, and with NSF being defunded, it would be difficult for me to acquire a grant to make my work legitimate. My hard work would be passed over in the notorious peer review process. Ah! And then I saw my fate, as I recalled what James Clerk Maxwell had said. "New theories are never accepted by the established scientists. It's not until old guard dies-- then the new theory gains prestige and recognition as the new minds, who created the theory to describe their world, take their rightful positions in the institutions which yesterday had beat them down." I forget the exact words, but the sentiment is preserved.

Unlike many members of the slacker new-age academic left, like Andrew Ross, I respect science. Science has given us cars and computers. With each passing minute, the resolution of the TV one can purchase at Circuit City is increasing, while its cost is falling, because of science. Science has provided me with the salary of a physics graduate student and given me the opportunity to write grant proposals.

But there are things that science cannot do. This is obvious to most, but not to all. There are aspects of the human being which science cannot characterize, penetrate, nor grasp. For science does not provide us with that which we buy TV's to view, except for maybe Nova, for a few people. There's yet the phantom in the machine that inspires people to watch their TV's rather than their microwaves. Science does not inspire laughter within us, nor tears, except for physics exams, now and then. There are no equations for emotions, though that's probably not enough to stop the government from funding projects to find some, as long as a feminist applies for it. Science did not give us the Ten Commandments, and while math helps us count them, it does not enhance their meaning. Nor does science give us the laws which govern society, even though these ideals, like mathematics, are rooted firmly in logic. By words alone do we ask the question, "what does it mean to be conscious, and things?" By words alone do we know the shape of what Melville deemed, "the ungraspable phantom of life."

We here at BeaconWay Press think it's arrogant of Steven Hawking to claim he's seen the mind of God in a mathematical equation, but hey-- it sells coffee-table physics books, and it gives physicists something to do in relatively peaceful times. The theory of coffee-table-physics/consciousness books has been the most successful theory in physics in recent years. The mark of a good theory is that it can be proven by experiment, and the mark of a good experiment is that its results can be duplicated by further experimentation.

So after witnessing Hawking's best-selling physics/bible/hand-waving book work so well, a few more people, like Professor Tippler, Professor Leon Lederman, and Professor Paul Davies, figured that they would test the theory themselves. Tippler wrote a big book and named it, "The Physics of Immortality." In it he proves that we are immortal, even if one doesn't have tenure. Included in the book are pictures of him shaking hands with the Pope. He proves our immortality scientifically, with math. I did not understand the proof, but I am in no rush to. Apparently the proof was so rigorous that in place of royalties his publisher offered to buy him the Bahamas, in a hundred years.

Paul Davies extended the theory to a far deeper level, and he called his book, "The Mind of God." He followed the strict constraints of Hawking's theory, and included in his treatise the obligatory picture of space-time around a black-hole, the mandatory mention of Schrodenger's cat, a few figures outlining the double-slit experiment, and a re-hashing of all the stuff that Einstein figured out, along with a few comments on Hawking's black-hole radiation. Then there were the few chapters that were devoted to the Economy of Mysteriousness Principle, with the required references to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, and Chaos Theory, which deconstructionists have grown quite fond of, as the names suggest that these theories can be utilized for obfuscation. Quantum mechanics is mysterious, consciousness is mysterious, and God is mysterious. Thus, by economy of mysteriousness, Professor Davies showed, they must all be the same thing. The book wasn't saying anything new, but that's OK, because physics books for the public are judged by their covers, and Davies had chosen the title with the unparalelled skill and audacity of somebody who lands NSF grants for sport.

And then physicists wonder why projects like the SSC gets de-funded, even though it's supposed to find the God particle. But never fear-- there is always employment for the linearly trained mind. Like it's only a matter of time until some bright, young, freshly-unemployed particle physicist starts a company that manufactures stronger coffee-tables.

Recently Paul Davies won the '95 $1,000,000 Templeton award, which is awarded each year to the person who has best increased the public's understanding and awareness of religion. Former winners have included Billy Graham, and Mother Thereasa. I saw Professor/Father Davies speak, at a lecture entitled, "Creation and Time," or something. He did a good job in presenting his colorful transparencies with the standard space-time-God diagrams. And he referred to God as a "she," which showed that he was intelligent enough to have been liberated, and caused some in the croud to titter. He told us that one couldn't ask what existed before the big bang, because before the big bang happened, time didn't exist. But before the lecture was over, I discovered he was wrong, for I overheard the person sitting next to me whisper, "What existed before the big bang?" "Science," Professor Davies stated, "offers a surer path to God than does religion."

During the question and answer session, I was going to ask him how he might apply physics to help decrease today's burgeoning divorce rate, where every other marriage doesn't last. But somebody beat me to it, and they asked him what his views were on morality. Professor Davies said that that question always comes up, and he said that if one had questions about morality, one didn't approach a physicist. I wonder how well his book would have sold if he had called it, "The Mind of God, Without the Morality."

On the first page of the Bible, which over the past few-thousand years has been considered by many to contain the "Word of God," there is the line, "Let there be light." There're then maybe a couple of more paragraphs which talk about the creation of world, and how it's at the center of everything. But then the authors are done with the subject. The tools by which the Big Bang Theory was developed were not available to them, so those few beginning paragraphs aren't the most accurate, even though "Let there be light," pretty much bangs the nail on the head, in a big way.

But then the rest of the Bible is devoted to the human soul. And the printed word, the tool the authors developed to set in stone the eternal order they felt in their ephemeral spirits, did the job just fine. Five thousand years later, there are still Ten Commandments. Physics has not added an eleventh, nor has it reduced them to nine. And nobody has yet found a mathematical equation for laughter, pain, mirth, nor anguish.

Many physicists, as well as scientists in other fields, have embarked upon the quest for a scientific theory of consciousness, and God. But none have found that which they seek.

We at Beaconway Press have. It is called The New Literature, and we have all purchased new homes, for we feel assured of the Nobel Prize in Physics. Physicists invented the religious book without morality, and now we've invented the physics book without math, which we feel to be an equivalent accomplishment to Alan Lightman's invention of the novel without a plot. Prior to our startling insights I considered becoming a biographer of the great biographers and text-book writers, like Abraham Pais, James Gleik and Halliday and Resnik, but I am now too busy with The New Literature. I am telling you this so that on case anyone does it, you will know where they got the idea from.

And so I here dedicate my Ph.D. physics dissertation, "Science Sonnets from The New Literature," to all the poor NSF bureaucrats who're losing their jobs in the cut-backs as well as the physicists who wrote the coffee-table books like Paul Davies'Superforce and inspired me to become a physicist so that I might too gain a glimpse of, "The Mind of God." Without their combined committment to science, I would not be here writing this.

All the Best

Drake "Red Avenger" Raft

On with the show! Have fun with Drake's poetry!


Science sonnets selected from Drake Raft's "THE AFTER DARK FIELD BOOK":

ccclix.

Physics pervades the beauty of nature,
But it can't touch the mechanics of poems,
Strings and fields can not describe our rapture,
And love can not be found on a genome.
And yet I am drawn by the cold theories,
Because I 've learned the fallacies of love,
In love one flounders in passion's rough sea,
Flying free of flesh, physics floats above.
Oh! Let physics be religion for me,
For it is holier than words and poems,
Words can be twisted, from meaning set free,
While physics is frozen in the starred domes.
But don't be fooled by this holy pretence,
Physics, not poems, makes the bombs of defense.

xxviii.

Oh, Einstein, couldn't you see tragedy,
In the search for the ultimate order?
While from Hitler's perfection flowed a blood red sea,
Couldn't you tell what would lie at the void's border?
Remember Hamlet's outrageous fortune?
Did you see what they did to Socrates?
And how Ahab's quest led him to ruin?
How consciousness was lost by good Nietzsche?
Did you not expect, the ultimate law,
would show that there is no law to be found?
Oh, Einstein, it's nothing new, quantum's flaw:
At the base of man's monuments there's no ground.
For the highest order is orderless,
Tragedy is there's naught behind greatness.

cxl.

Now suppose we have a hole in a slate,
A photon from a source passes on through,
And it darkens a grain on a film plate,
To say it went through the hole would be true.
Several photons pass through, we wait a bit,
And quite a simple pattern we do see,
A bright spot directly behind the slit,
Fading away as you move outwardly.
We choose to add an additional slit,
The photon seems to have a decision,
It must choose one of them through which to fit,
For photons are not allowed to fission.
But now there are fringes, common to waves!
In this manner, can particles behave?
cxli.
What's seen is an interference pattern,
Which is common to every type of wave,
On the vast ocean or from a lantern,
This is the way every wave does behave.
Though you think particles blacken the spot,
Between the source and plate light is a wave,
As to its whereabouts we can say not,
Such is the way reality behaves.
These ghostly facts are true of all matter,
Electrons and protons and you and me,
We're but empty waves that somehow matter,
Striving to comprehend reality.
Wavy winds blow, our consciousness is lit.
It makes up our mind, our minds make up it.

cxlii.

"The question is to be or not to be,
Whether it is nobler within the mind,
To believe in indeterminacy,
Or refute that God plays dice in the wind.
Are there many worlds, or only just this one?
And is Schrodinger's cat alive or dead?
Of p and x, can we only know one?
And of Wigner's good friend, what can be said?"
He smiled and said, "no question, no answer,
This above all, science holds to be true,
Love is in the mind of the romancer,
And the kind of love determines the view."
He looked up to the sky, a sky few see,
A sky filled with a child's curiosity.

xlviii.

I was studying the workings of a star,
Quantum mechanics, nuclear fusion,
From which is borne all life from afar,
This reality of dreams and illusions.
But there was no magic to the physics,
The cold, hard equations of description,
Couldn't convey the feeling so mystic,
To be living with her in a fiction,
A dream it must have been under the stars,
Her eyes closed, and her wet hair swept on back,
Oh, lost in reasons we fight all our wars,
So just give me a piece that's free from fact.
I no longer care what makes the wind blow,
There are things that a child should never know.

cdxiv.

Night owl, experimental physicist,
With the frontiers of nature in his hands,
Some wires conduct, other wires resist,
These are the tools leading him to new lands.
Tower of instruments probe an atom,
He's the first to coordinate them,
He sees a depth that we cannot fathom,
The riches of curiosities' gem.
For larger than all the electronics,
Beyond the oscilloscope, TTL's,
There's the pursuit of the complete physics,
Unraveling of nature's magical spells.
All the hardware arises from passion,
As the quest for knowledge becomes action.

cdxv.

Have you seen the laughing wave function?
Ah! But laughter physics cannot explain,
For it ignores the spiritual passion,
Reducing love to chemicals in the brain.
The equations of physics constrained me,
To realms where these feelings could not be said,
Out the window, spring blossoms I see,
On the board I see a description dead.
All these symbols and numbers ignore me,
My poetry the scientists don't need,
Oh, we are all victims of entropy,
Regardless of the descriptions we heed.
Long before we described what we see,
Poems and physics inscribed us in reality.

lxxxvi.

Marie, I wonder if you think of me,
As much as I 've been thinking upon you,
Nothing I 'd like better than you to see,
But I 've got exams and homework to do.
But nowhere in quantum can I find truth,
Nor the feeling I find talking to you,
Only in your brown eyes do I find proof,
And inspiration for the things I do.
And so for the moment I turn away,
But it's only so I can turn again,
Of these things that to you I 'd like to say,
I 'll set my thoughts down for you with my pen.
At this moment I wonder what you do,
Are you thinking of me, or someone new?

cliii.

Why do I see three spatial dimensions,
Does something intrinsic lie underneath?
Or is it but an invention's invention?
Like all facts founded on flesh's beliefs.
Can math define the entire universe,
With no equations for laughter and love?
It's but a cold, grey beauty, with no verse,
That's too solid to describe what's above.
But math led us to the fourth dimension,
Dislodged us from the cosmos's center,
Of quantum fields words can make no mention,
Without math, time's secrets one can't enter.
But with words and math, walking hand in hand,
We approach the day we will understand.
cxc.
In but a few years we'll have forgotten,
The November day we walked through the woods.
From the purple skies fell leaves of autumn;
I would walk back there through time, if I could.
On a dune we played king of the mountain,
Remember how we both won at the top?
Time saved us from drowning in youth's fountain,
I wish I could grasp it, and make it stop.
But these days flow by me, the past grows small.
All is for naught, but from naught I was born,
Who am I to deny that naught makes all?
With precious words, one way time I won't scorn.
If my days with you were but quantum fluff,
Then I 'd say nothing was more than enough.

ccxliv.

The foundations of a pedant's power,
But the remnants of yesterday's fashion,
She played unfair to rise to her tower,
Forever tainted for my father's bashing.
True power lies with the vitality,
The vitality in Princeton's youth's truth,
Where there lives love, there lies reality,
A young thought needs but to be young for proof.
Now I see! We'll start a society,
To honor all those who are today the young,
For come tomorrow we will not be free,
Enslaved by the music we once sung.
The rarer action's in virtue than vice,
To forgive that which is but quantum dice.

cclxxviii.

Oh, so soft and vivid is tonight's dusk!
Oh! Forever these purple clouds shall hang,
As shall the magnolia blossom's musk,
And the good night the mourning doves just sang.
Now I feel that these actors were fated,
By biological scripts, by quantum's
Fortune-- significance of free will's abated.
To useless logic I 'm comfortably numb.
All spoken words, actions, where are they now?
Where's goes sculpture's sculpting? Writer's writing?
Out of past actions we sculptures did grow,
Now adult, we fade in the benighting.
But all action's recorded in evolution,
As offspring are closer to perfection.

cccxxxviii.

On that great day the clock starts unwinding,
You've become, the rest is unbecoming,
The rest is spent searching, never finding,
The day you first heard the soft spring humming.
What a humming! A boundless symphony,
Running parallel with reason, you were God,
Language acquired meaning, you felt to be,
Youth's dream, as all illusions, was a fraud.
For the next the morning, the world was all strange,
You couldn't like what you saw in your soul,
You realized the pain of the downward change,
Direction's but falling in a black hole.
It's fate, to be erased by entropy,
The second law life's spent trying to flee.

cccxxxix.

Feel time oscillating, it is a wave,
Propagating at c relative to,
The three dimensions we consciously brave,
Energy's in the fourth, expanding through,
Spatial dimensions at the speed of time.
How can photons, a bouncing ball, be me,
We evolved to distinguish things by name,
It's but as capricious as our eyes see.
Matter is a wave on the quantum scale,
We describe it with math, we think we know,
But knowledge eludes ahab-- this white whale,
So it is this empty chase makes life's show.
Physics seems less likely with every day,
What makes us, math nor words, just feelings say.

Ahoy! Drop the crew a line!


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