Poetry in Science (or science in poetry?)

Poetry in Science

April was National Poetry Month and there were quite a few poems I noticed on the net with a science theme. Thinking about poetry in science, I was instantly reminded of a Feynman poem that I read in one of his books:


There are the rushing waves
mountains of molecules
each stupidly minding its own business
trillions apart
yet forming white surf in unison

Ages on ages
before any eyes could see
year after year
thunderously pounding the shore as now.

For whom, for what?
On a dead planet
with no life to entertain.

Never at rest
tortured by energy
wasted prodigiously by the sun
poured into space.
A mite makes the sea roar.

Deep in the sea
all molecules repeat
the patterns of one another
till complex new ones are formed.
They make others like themselves
and a new dance starts.

Growing in size and complexity
living things
masses of atoms
DNA, protein
dancing a pattern ever more intricate.

Out of the cradle
onto dry land
here it is
standing:
atoms with consciousness;
matter with curiosity.

Stands at the sea,
wonders at wondering: I
a universe of atoms
an atom in the universe.

— Richard Feynman

There were other poems about the blogsphere and internet that I noticed with a science theme. At Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted), there was this gem: Field Guide by James Gurley, dedicated to Ted Parker, ornithologist & conservationist, 1953-1993. Wonderful poem. She includes several others at Living the Scientific Life, but don’t miss The Microbe by Hilaire Belloc.

Along with The Obligatory poem from Emily Dickinson , Janet D. Stemwedel at Adventures in Ethics and Science notes the trivial fact that “nearly every Emily Dickinson poem can be sung to the tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas”.” One of her readers responds that the source of this habit is from Dickinson’s childhood when she was exposed to hymnals of the same metrical pattern at church. But it was Stemwedel’s 4/26/06 entry that included Roald Hoffman’s an unusual state of matter that caught my eye. A nice touch was addition of outside links to the words monazite, cerium, lanthanum, thorium, yttrium, and phosphate!

Coturnix at Science and Politics posts a couple of zoological poems: The Axolotl and the Ammocoete by Walter Garstang and The Axolotl by David McCord. The Student Blog at HUNBlog uses a poem called Scenic Overlook to describe for students how poetry can use geological metaphor. HUNBlog has a section called StuBlog, which is geared for students. HUNBlog’s main purpose is science education and they seem to be doing a bang-up job.

Doubtless, there are other science-related poems out there, but these are the ones that I came across during the National Poetry Month of April 2006. Enjoy.