On Problems

 

Our choicest plans
have fallen through
our airiest castles
tumbled over
because of lines
we neatly drew
and later neatly
stumbled over.

by Piet Hein (1905-1996).

The Danish mathematician Piet Hein wrote many short poems concerning maths. He called them gruk. This one  talks of the danger of becoming  trapped by your own assumptions. 

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The Evolutionary Biology Valentine’s Day Poem

In sociobiology,
Why I love you and you love me—
Which anyone can plainly see—
Is mostly in our genes.
No, not the ones you buy in stores,
But what a scientist explores–
I like the way you look in yours,
And you know what that means.

What subtly-coded stimulus
Takes you and me, and makes us “us
And makes us feel ‘twas ever thus?
The list of suspects narrows.
No longer are we all a-shiver
From some Cupid with a quiver
Out of which he might deliver
Fusillades of Eros.

Nor Dopamine, nor Serotonin
Tell us why our hearts are moanin’
Though they serve to help us hone in
On–not why, but how;
The parasympathetic blush,
Adrenaline to bring a rush,
Are how, not why, I’ve got a crush
On you, my darling, now.

But if old Charles Darwin’s right,
The reason that the merest sight
Of you will always give delight
Is…reproductive fitness.
Throughout our species’ family tree,
Producing proper progeny
Is what determined you and me
And Darwin was the witness.

Is thinking that you’re oh so sweet
And how you’ll make my life complete
Some trick to make our gametes meet?
It seems it may be so.
I feel the way I feel today
Because some bit of DNA
Sees your genetics on display
And wants to say “hello.”

But think of this, for what it’s worth:
Millennia before my birth
That DNA had roamed the earth,
In residents thereof;
The neat thing is, it’s really true,
The feeling that I have for you
Although, of course, it feels brand-new
Is truly ageless love.

 

by ‘Cuttlefish’

The Digital Cuttlefish <http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish/> : Cuttlefish are shy and elusive creatures; when necessary, they hide in their own ink.  This particular cuttlefish has chosen as its habitat the comment threads of science, religion, and news sites, where it feeds on the opinions of those who are emboldened by the cloak of internet anonymity. Cuttlefish is an atheist, a skeptic, and is madly, passionately in love with science. The Digital Cuttlefish has, since October of 2007, been a repository of commentary and satire, usually (but not exclusively) in verse.

Light, I know, treads the ten million stars

Light, I know, treads the ten million stars,
And blooms in the Hesperides. Light stirs
Out of the heavenly sea onto the moon’s shores.
Such light shall not illuminate my fears
And catch a turnip ghost in every cranny.
I have been frightened of the dark for years.
When the sun falls and the moon stares,
My heart hurls from my side and tears
Drip from my open eyes as honey
Drips from the humming darkness of the hive.
I am a timid child when light is dead.
Unless I learn the night I shall go mad.
It is night’s terrors I must learn to love,
Or pray for day to some attentive god
Who on his cloud hears all my wishes,
Hears and refuses.
Light walks the sky, leaving no print,
And there is always day, the shining of some sun,
In those high globes I cannot count,
And some shine for a second and are gone,
Leaving no print.
But lunar night will not glow in my blackness,
Make bright its corners where a skeleton
Sits back and smiles, A tiny corpse
Turns to the roof a hideous grimace,
Or mice play with an ivory tooth.
Stars’ light and sun’s light will not shine
As clearly as the light of my own brain,
Will only dim life, and light death.
I must lean night’s light or go mad.

by Dylan Thomas

The Deep-Sea Cables

The Deep-Sea Cables

The wrecks dissolve above us; their dust drops down from afar–
Down to the dark, to the utter dark, where the blind white sea-snakes are.
There is no sound, no echo of sound, in the deserts of the deep,
Or the great gray level plains of ooze where the shell-burred cables creep.

Here in the womb of the world–here on the tie-ribs of earth
Words, and the words of men, flicker and flutter and beat–
Warning, sorrow and gain, salutation and mirth–
For a Power troubles the Still that has neither voice nor feet.

They have wakened the timeless Things; they have killed their father
Time;
Joining hands in the gloom, a league from the last of the sun.
Hush! Men talk to-day o’er the waste of the ultimate slime,
And a new Word runs between: whispering,’’Let us be one!’’

by Rudyard Kipling

The Mathematician in Love

A mathematician fell madly in love
With a lady, young, handsome, and charming:
By angles and ratios harmonic he strove
Her curves and proportions all faultless to prove.
As he scrawled hieroglyphics alarming.

He measured with care, from the ends of a base,
The arcs which her features subtended:
Then he framed transcendental equations, to trace
The flowing outlines of her figure and face,
And thought the result very splendid.

He studied (since music has charms for the fair)
The theory of fiddles and whistles,-
Then composed, by acoustic equations, an air,
Which, when ’twas performed, made the lady’s long hair
Stand on end, like a porcupine’s bristles.

To the polka and waltz, an equation;
But when to rotate on his axis he tried,
His centre of gravity swayed to one side,
And he fell, by the earth’s gravitation.

No doubts of the fate of his suit made him pause,
For he proved, to his own satisfaction,
That the fair one returned his affection;-“because,
“As every one knows, by mechanical laws,
“Re-action is equal to action.”

“Let x denote beauty,-y, manners well-bred,-

“z, Fortune,-(this last is essential),-
“Let L stand for love”-our philosopher said,-
“Then L is a function of x, y, and z,
“Of the kind which is known as potential.”

“Now integrate L with respect to d t,
“(t Standing for time and persuasion);
“Then, between proper limits, ’tis easy to see,
“The definite integral Marriage must be:-
“(A very concise demonstration).”

Said he-“If the wandering course of the moon
“By Algebra can be predicted,
“The female affections must yield to it soon”-
-But the lady ran off with a dashing dragoon,
And left him amazed and afflicted.

By William J. M. Rankine

Read more:Victorian scientists’ poetry: An anthology

Wormhole’s Shadow Might Be Detectable, Fascinating and Confusing

ship thru a wormhole

Wormholes are hypothetical,
So hypothetically,
They may leave traces in the sky
That telescopes could see.

Where space-time is so warped,
Photons
might trace a ring,
While others falling through the pipe,
Leave dark where light had been.

Not my own reflector
To search for wormhole tubes,
But radio astronomy
Linked across the globe.

Confirming wormholes would confuse
What we know of gravity,
But since that force still puzzles us
They’d mesh abstractedly.

by Kate Rauner

https://katerauner.wordpress.com/2018/04/18/wormholes-shadow-might-be-detectable-fascinating-and-confusing-poem-poetry-physics-wormhole-space/

Flash Burn

After the bomb
when radiation
wreaked its devastation
and the world turned
monochrome,
life leached from crooked limbs
of blackened trees
and poisoned humans.
In the midst of chaos
and confusion,
a mother’s love lit up the sky,
just like the radiation
before the mushroom
imprinted shadows on our souls.

by Kim M. Russell

Flash Burn