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
I followed once a fleet and mighty serpent
Into a cavern in a mountain’s side;
And, wading many lakes, descending gulphs,
At last I reached the ruins of a city,
Built not like ours but of another world,
As if the aged earth had loved in youth
The mightiest city of a perished planet,
And kept the image of it in her heart,
So dreamlike, shadowy, and spectral was it.
Nought seemed alive there, and the very dead
Were of another world the skeletons.
The mammoth, ribbed like to an arched cathedral,
Lay there, and ruins of great creatures else
More like a shipwrecked fleet, too great they seemed
For all the life that is to animate:
And vegetable rocks, tall sculptured palms,
Pines grown, not hewn, in stone; and giant ferns,
Whose earthquake shaken leaves bore graves for nests.
from Death’s Jest Book, III, i
by Thomas Lovell Beddoes (1803-1849)
— perhaps more Science Fiction than Science, but an interesting poem form the 1800s nevertheless.
For the first twenty years since yesterday
I scarce believed thou couldst be gone away;
For forty more I fed on favors past,
And forty on hopes that thou wouldst they might last.
Tears drowned one hundred, and sighs blew out two,
A thousand, I did neither think nor do,
Or not divide, all being one thought of you,
Or in a thousand more forgot that too.
Yet call not this long life, but think that I
Am, by being dead, immortal. Can ghosts die?
John Donne is one of the great poets. Who can resist sharing one of his poems?
In science and mathematics, accuracy is key. In this poem, Mirslav Holub (an immunologist) reflects on accuracy. This poem was translated form the Czech by Ewald Osers.
Brief Reflection on Accuracy
always accurately know where to move and when,
birds have an accurate built-in time sense
lacking such instincts resorts to scientific
research. Its nature is illustrated by the following
A certain soldier
had to fire a cannon at six o’clock sharp every evening.
Being a soldier he did so. When his accuracy was
investigated he explained:
I go by
the absolutely accurate chronometer in the window
of the clockmaker down in the city. Every day at seventeen
forty-five I set my watch by it and
climb the hill where my cannon stands ready.
At seventeen fifty-nine precisely I step up to the cannon
and at eighteen hours sharp I fire.
And it was clear
that this method of firing was absolutely accurate.
All that was left was to check that chronometer. So
the clockmaker down in the city was questioned about
his instrument’s accuracy.
Oh, said the clockmaker,
this is one of the most accurate instruments ever. Just imagine,
for many years now a cannon has been fired at six o’clock sharp.
And every day I look at this chronometer
and always it shows exactly six.
Chronometers tick and cannon boom.