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Galaxy

faint
in deep space,
immense as a brain

down
through the thought-
shaft it drifts, a wale

of light to
which the retina
opens and is centered

time and
space dis-
appearing as the mind

recedes
to a soundless
flickering somewhere

deeper
than consciousness
where, permanent as

change
a whorl of light
rides, wheeling in darkness

by Richard Ryan

About Planck Time

Once upon a time, way back in the infinitesimal
First fraction of a second attending our creation,
A tiny drop containing all of it, all energy
And all its guises, burst upon the scene,
Exploding out of nothing into everything
Virtually instantaneously, the way our thoughts
Leap eagerly to occupy the abhorrent void.
Once, say ten or twenty billion years ago,
In Planck time, in no time at all, the veil
Available to our perceptions was flung out
Over space at such a rate the mere imagination
Cannot keep up, so rapidly the speed of light
Lags miraculously behind, producing a series
Of incongruities that has led our curiosity,
Like Ariadne’s thread, through the dim labyrinth
Of our conclusions to the place of our beginning.
In Planck time, everything that is was spread so thin
That all distance is enormous, between each star,
Between subatomic particles, so that we are composed
Almost entirely of emptiness, so that what separates
This world, bright ball floating in its midnight blue,
From the irrefutable logic of no world at all
Has no more substance than the traveler’s dream,
So that nothing can be said for certain except
That sometime, call it Planck time, it will all just
Disappear, a parlor trick, a rabbit in its hat,
Will all go up in a flash of light, abracadabra,
An idea that isn’t being had anymore.

 

by George Bradley

 

Poet to Physicist in his Laboratory

Come out and talk to me          

for then I know

into what you are shaping.

Thinking is no more,

I read your thoughts for a symbol:

a movement towards an act.

I give up on thought                            

as I see your mind

leading into a mystery

deepening about you.

What are you trying to discover

beyond the zone of habit

and enforced convention?

There is the animus

that spends itself on images,

the most complex being

convention and habit.

You shall form patterns                       

of research and bind yourself

to laws within your knowledge,

and always conscious of your limitations

make settlement,

with patience to instruct you

as it always does

in your research: an arrangement

spanning an abyss of time,

and you will find yourself patient

when you are questioned.

 

by David Ignatow

 

THE NON-EUCLIDEAN UNIVERSE

 

A line that looks dead straight can be an arc
like the horizon when you’re out at sea.
True distance is deceptive: in the dark
it can’t be measured. Yes, you made a mark
or two, in fact, but you can barely see.
A line that should be straight becomes an arc,
the path that’s traveled by a welder’s spark
when danger’s just a matter of degree.
Since distance can’t be measured in the dark
most people turn the light on. And the stark
divisions blind them with geometry.
A line that isn’t straight is called an arc—
no! Think outside the box! Perhaps a quark
moves like a knight in chess, a hop-two-three.
(True distance is deceptive.) In the dark
all rules break down completely. What a lark!
The future’s coming at you in 4D.
A line that should be straight looks like an arc.
True distance can deceive you in the dark.

by Anna M. Evans

from Rattle #49, Fall 2015
Tribute to Scientists

Distances

Just where that star above
Shines with a cold, dispassionate smile —
If in the flesh I’d travel there,
How many, many a mile!

If this, my soul, should be
Unprisoned from its earthly bond,
Time could not count its markless flight
Beyond that star, beyond!

–From Lyrics of life and love / by William Stanley Braithwaite [electronic text]
Braithwaite, William Stanley, 1878-1962.
Courtesy of the University of Michigan Humanities Text Initiative American Verse Project.

Relativity (a song by Tom Lehrer)

Einstein was the first who stated,
He was the first who dared:
Mass and energy are related,
By E = mc2.

 

When Isaac Newton wrote The Laws that we all quote,
It’s now extremely apparent that he
Neglected to consider — Relativity.

 

What focused our attention on the fourth dimension?
We’d been doing so well with just three:
‘Twas Mr. Einstein’s brainchild — Relativity.

 

Now who would think, and who’d forecast,
That bodies shrink, when they go fast.
It makes old Isaac’s theory
Look weary.

 

So then if you are near when atom bombs appear,
And you’re reduced to a pile of debris,
You’ll know it’s largely due to — Relativity.
Yes, you can place the blame on — Relativity.

 

These lyrics were published in Physics Today, July 2005, p. 59.