Probability By Lia Purpura


Most coincidents are not

miraculous, but way more

common than we think—it’s the shiver

of noticing being

central in a sequence

of eventsthat makes so much

seem wild and rare—because what if it wasn’t?

Astonishment’s nothing

without your consent.


The Detection of Shocked Co/ Emission from G333.6-0.2

A Scientific paper, written in verse by New South Wales physicist J. W. V. Storey, a paper published as a 38-stanza poem, appeared in The Proceedings of the Astronomical Society of Australia in 1984. It is from a Conference, and was written in verse when the presenter discovered that he would be the very last speaker at the event.

I wrote my abstract, sent it in,
With words that don’t offend.
Imagine my horror to find that I
Am scheduled at the end.

Let me say, to be last speaker,
There are very few things worse.
And so this talk, to get revenge,
Will be entirely in verse.

The subject I address today
Is that of star formation.
And what we’ve found out recently
About the situation.

Stars start out as clouds of gas and
Dust and bits of spinning stuff.
Collapsing gravitationally
Until they’re dense enough.

They form themselves in little lumps,
(Or so says this bloke Jeans).
‘Dynamic Instabilities’
Whatever that term means.

A protostar is thus created,
Igniting nuclear fuel.
Before too long the star begins
To really lose its cool.

A massive wind begins to blow;
No one’s quite sure why.
But it’s quite clear the gas and stuff
Begins to really fly.

Well, from all this result what’s called
Protostellar outflow.
Bipolar, fast, and hot as hell —
We see it in CO.

But radio can’t tell us much;
There are but few transitions,
And cool CO’s so common, it
Confuses most positions.

So, most of what we know of this
Comes from the infrared —
That bit of spectrum in the middle
That decent people dread

Way back in 1976,
2 Micron lines were found
In Orion where, I’m sure you know,
Molecules abound.

Now everyone was most surprised,
These lines put out much power.
No one thought they’d be that strong —
Not even Neugebauer.

The lines were due to hydrogen
Molecules, and they
Don’t emit much until heated
To at least two thousand K

Well, people studied this for years,
Finding H2 everywhere.
But still these lines don’t tell you what
Density is there.

What we need’s another line:
Density dependent.
This view needs no genius
In order to defend it.

I’ve talked for several minutes now,
(I’ve half an hour to go),
I’m sure you’re most surprised I haven’t
Mentioned yet the KAO

Carbon monoxide, really hot,
Has heaps of good transitions
Depending critically upon
The density conditions.

These lines are in the far — IR,
But wait — here’s the best bit —
To see them you will need to use
The KAO, you guessed it!

In 1980, from the plane, we
Found it in Orion,
But no more CO could we find
Despite long hours of flyin’.

So models of Orion’s shock
Were looking really grand,
But it remained the only source
We claimed to understand.

We needed several other sources,
All of which we’d then compare.
But when we looked for shocked CO,
We always found it wasn’t there.

And so I searched for southern sources
Of this shocked H2,
And found it, in G333
Point six, minus, naught point two.

It’s really very, very bright
And made us all quite happy.
The data’s good, the lines are strong
(Though the slide don’t look real snappy.)

So, if we want to search again
For shocked CO, and wouldn’t you?
What better place than G333
Point six, minus, naught point two!

The problem with this new-found source,
I hardly need to warn you,
Is that it’s too far south to see
From sunny California.

And so to us the Kuiper came;
In May last year it made it.
The cost was astronomical,
But NASA mainly paid it.

Thus we made a set of flights
From Richmond Airforce Base.
One such flight is shown right here:
Our trackss this dotted trace.

How the instrument is made
Upon this slide is told;
It uses liquid helium
To keep all these bits cold.

Well, heres the data please dont laugh,
It often looks this way.
A few times through the VAX and then
Well publish it as Ap J.

The line is there, I kid you not,
This dip heres just the sky.
To see the peak you simply need
A good impartial eye.

Least-squares fitting gives a curve
From which derive the facts.
(Oh, let me thank the AAO
For lending me their VAX.)

Vlsr is fifty-three.
Its pleasing, as you see.
The radio line velocities
More or less agree.

Intensity is really weak:
Its two point nought by ten.
To the minus eighteenth power
(In watts per square cm.)

Thats thirty times as weak as we
Detected in Orion.
No wonder it took several years
Of concentrated tryin

Well, as you see, I dont yet have
Any numbers clear
For density, and things like that.
(Its only been a year.)

But now we have not one, but two
CO sources, it is true:
Orion, and this G333
Point six, minus, naught point two.

In fact, the sources now are three
Because, again last May,
The very next flight that we did
Found CO in Sgr A.

Well, thank you all for listening
(Though some of you have slept)
I wonder now, will Dick McGee
This manuscript accept?

Poems about IT: Number 2

Broken Controls

existing firewall rules
are ineffective to prevent

distributed denial-of-service attack
is launched,
flooding the heart –
causing malfunction,
disconnecting communication channel
with the brain

the heart left open,
love virus gets to work
spreading new sensations
which take deep roots,
taking over controls
in a matter of minutes

by the time
incident report is lodged
and root cause analysis
the heart’s assets
have been sieged, and the brain
no longer

In computing, a firewall is a network security system that monitors and controls the incoming and ongoing network traffic based on pre-detemined access security rules.
Distributed denial-of-service attack is an attempt to make a machine unavailable to its intended users, e.g. by “flooding” the bandwidth or resources of a targeted system, eventually causing the system to crash. 

Poem by Anna at


Poems about IT: Number 1

The trick is slick code to manage
all the if, for, and while statements
in a optimized number of lines.
Pass a list, fix the syntax, import all the variables.
Comment your lines and indent where necessary,
leaving line breaks and whitespace
for readability.

— Monica Sharman

Poem submitted as part of  community poetry prompts at

Peaceful Soil

Another Biology poem for the collection:

Poetry, Short Prose and Walking

Good roots avoid the sunbeams.
They much prefer the dark
Away from light and sources bright.
They love the mysteries of night.
That’s where they leave their mark.

But leaves prefer the sunlight.
That’s where they dream to toil
And offer all until the Fall
To help their Whole stand true and tall
Then rest on peaceful soil.

“The roots are also incredibly light-sensitive; but in contrast to the leaves, they don’t like light at all.” Stefano Mancuso and Alessandra Viola, Brilliant Green: The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence, Island Press, translated by Joan Benham, 2015, page 50. If you think plants are vegetables, this book is worth reading.

Linked to dVerse Poetics hosted by Björn Rudberg with “soil” as the prompt.
Linked to Imaginary Garden with Real Toads for their Tuesday Platform imagined by Marian.
Photo: “The Details of Blooming” by the author. The scene is…

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“hv” a physics song

h v” by Gilbert Stead (ca. 1920)

Note:v” is the Greek letter “nu”.
To the tune “Men of Harlech” (traditional Welsh tune)

All black body radiations,
All the spectrum variations,
All atomic oscillations
Vary as “h v.”

Ultraviolet vibrations,
X- and gamma-ray pulsations,
Ordinary light sensations
All obey “h v.”

Here’s the right relation
Governs radiation,
Here’s the new,
And only true,
Electrodynamical equation;
Never mind your d/dt2,
V times e or half mv2
(If you watch the factor “c2”)
E equals “h v.”

Even matters calorific,
Such things as the heat specific
Yield to treatment scientific
If you use “h v.”

In all questions energetic
Whether static or kinetic,
Or electric, or magnetic,
You must use “h v.”


There would be a mighty clearance,
We should all be Planck’s adherents
Were it not that interference
Still defies “h v.”

With thanks to

Brief summary of the physics in this song