Ode to the Hard Sciences


I was looking through some old documents of mine in an effort to track down the exact date when I first began using LaTeX, when I stumbled upon a poem I had written back in grade 12 for an Independent Study Unit (ISU). Here it is:

Despite great di ff’rences in shape and size,
The observant student finds in awe,
Man, beast, and vegetable when analyzed,
Obey the selfsame set of natural laws.

The beauty of nature exempli fied,
Finds its cause in ultimate reduction,
In flowers, peacocks, and the butterflies,
To imperative of reproduction.

In such a way the pleasant genes survive,
Passed down through ages by the DNA,
Which has its own behaviour derive,
From laws that hold all back from disarray.

‘Tis laws of chemistry of which I speak,
Which govern all things whether live or not,
Not just concoctions of a science geek,
But things far too small for the eyes to spot.

Indeed, the vibrant colours in the sky,
From lighting fi reworks one does produce,
Can be explained through theories that rely,
Upon results from chemistry induced.

But these are inter-atom interactions,
Resulting from an elaborate dance.
Electrons after nuclear attraction,
Do not themselves align as though by chance.

That is, the chemistry itself has cause,
For it is born from ever-simpler ways,
Material reality thus draws,
Method from the mechanical gaze,

Of physics, which on Earth does reign supreme;
Its realm extends throughout the universe.
Its greatest secrets lying in extremes:
The galaxies and particles diverse.

The fi rst, said Einstein, they can be described,
By treating space as a large rubber sheet,
Its curvature by his theories prescribed,
But in the end we found them incomplete.

For on the other end of this grand scale,
Is where we fi nd the very very small,
Not even our most gifted minds avail,
To scry the outcome when they hit the wall!

But though we cannot right now unify,
The laws that rule the very small and great,
A common thread can be identifi ed,
And all known sciences it does predate.

This thread, it runs through all we can conceive,
Yes, even that which only does exist,
In the logic which the mind perceives,
And yet in the real world it does persist.

‘Tis mathematics which all truths dictates,
The closest thing to God that we possess.
So vast the scope in which it operates,
I name it human thinking’s best success.

Each student in the class had to choose an English-language poet for the ISU, and one of the assignments was to compose an original poem in our chosen poet’s style. I was pretty nervous since I’ve never been a great creative writer, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Percy Shelley, my chosen poet, had experimented with chemistry and electricity. I used this as an excuse to write my poem about science.

ABAB rhyme schemes are common in Shelley’s poetry, as is iambic pentameter, so I attempted to use both in this poem, though, reading through it again, I notice I did a rather incomplete job of the latter.

The line “To scry the outcome when they hit the wall!” makes me cringe a bit, and, looking through the comments in the original document, I can see that it made me cringe back then too. Of course, in particle accelerators we do not fire the particles at walls, but I had to take some poetic license to make the damn thing rhyme…

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About Brian

Hi! I'm Brian Bi. As of November 2014 I live in Sunnyvale, California, USA and I'm a software engineer at Google. Besides code, I also like math, physics, chemistry, and some other miscellaneous things.
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