More Physics Haiku

Recently I attended a meeting of the CIfAR Quantum Materials program.  It was nice to see the old gang and all the new kids!  😉   Naturally, perverse inspiration struck again...

 

Iron selenium:
Yes, we have some bananas
in the QPI.

 

de Haas - van Alphen
without a Fermi surface?
Well, it oscillates!

 

What's a pseudogap?
We don't know, but we can see
them in everything!

 

In between the sheets
of strontium titanate
it's interesting.

 

Unsurprisingly,
quantum oscillations are
everywhere we look.

 

I don't understand,
but I use the words as if
I knew their meaning.

The Experiment

The Physicist, a lovestruck knight
comports himself with honour
at the tournament Experiment
in hope that Lady Nature,
lovely, chaste, mysterious maiden,
charmed by his heroic deeds,
will twirl with delight and let her gown
slip open briefly to reveal
a glimpse of breast or flash of thigh.

The Chemist is a rogue who cares
only for schemes
to get into the lady's pants.

The Engineer's already down
on one knee proposing marriage
and the raising of bright
industrious children
who will make their parents rich.

The Biologist catalogues these
examples of courtship behaviour

while the Psychologist smiles knowingly

and the Philosopher is, of course,
above all this nonsense.

Seductions

The magnanimous animus selects,
smiles in our hearts, gently
parts the inner lips of intellect
and plunges us through each
the other's oceanic experience.

Minds are chaste and wanton, always open,
wishing to be entered and filled,
to fill and enter and bring forth,
godlike, creations of light.

 

1989

Black Hole

I tried to light the emptiness
a dozen billion years;
I'm tired of burning now.
My incandescence dies.

Out of the changes in my heart
neutrinos rise and swarm,
preparing to carry away
my will to be warm.
They fly.
I                 im
plode
folding down upon myself
like a detonated building
more inward than imagination.

I am the id of the universe,
black hole,
the cosmic drain
sucking in suns and dust.
I am the singularity
that must and yet cannot exist.
Under the great gulp
umbrella, my event horizon,
none are seen again.

Photons like panicked bugs
on a four-dimensional balloon
rush to escape with their entropy.
They forget:
every direction in my field
is back
to
black hole.

 

(1974 or so)

Big Bang

In                                         nothingness
the ur-point explodes
mattering violently
shattering vacuum into         spaces.

Suns     plummet     incessantly     away,
spacetime swirls into temporary planets,
order
is hurled into entropy.

Occasionally
carbon cools and catches atoms,
forges chains and rings in chaos --
then the double helix forms,
a local departure from the Laws;
fingers grow to write these words
and vanish.

 

(1974 or so)

The Parrot

(Apologies to Edgar Allan Poe.)
For my own retirement party, 03 Nov 2012.

 

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, bleak and bleary,
Over many a faint and phoney answer to a midterm question,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, capping off my indigestion.
"'Tis some student," then I muttered, "capping off my indigestion --
Seeking answers to the question."

Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in a wet November,
And my dying mental ember wrote some words upon a page.
Dreading then tomorrow's lecture, vainly I had sought to hector
From my writing some wise vector that would make me seem the sage --
Make at least a feeble gesture thus to earn an honest wage,
Negating the effects of age.

And the silly sad mistaken midterm answers did awaken
Dark despair and desperation I had never felt before;
So that now, to stop the sinking of my heart, I stood there thinking,
"'Tis some offer to go drinking there outside my office door --
Some sad colleague tired of thinking, knocking on my office door;
This it is, and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my office door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you." -- here I opened wide the door.
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness staring, long I stood there scowling, swearing,
Wond'ring who decided unused lighting was a mortal sin;
But the darkness was unbroken, and the hallway gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Again?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Again!"
To my sustainable chagrin.

Back into my office turning, indigestion fiercer burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than the last.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice:
Let me see, then, what thereat is, putting this annoyance past --
Let my stomach still a moment while I put this in the past;
Then I'll take antacids, fast!"

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a scruffy parrot from a pirate film grotesque;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a moment stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my cluttered desk --
Perched upon a Feynman poster just above my cluttered desk --
Perched, and sat there, statuesque.

Then this raunchy bird beguiling my sad scowling into smiling
By the colourful profiling of the countenance it wore,
"Though thy orange plumes I stare at, thou," I said, "art sure no carrot,
Smelly, bold and silly parrot wandering from the Carib shore --
Tell me what thy pirate name is on the Caribbean shore!"
Quoth the Parrot, "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning -- little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird on Hennings' thirdmost floor --
Bird or beast upon the poster here on Hennings' thirdmost floor,
With such name as "Nevermore."

But the parrot, sitting lonely on the poster there, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered -- not a feather then he fluttered --
Till I scarcely more than muttered, "Fantasies have flown before --
On the morrow he will leave me, as my wits have flown before."
Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore --
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of 'Never -- nevermore'."

But the Parrot still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled an office chair in front of Feynman, 'cross the floor;
Then upon the cushion sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this raucous bird of yore --
What this rainbow-colored, fat, ridiculous, clownish bird of yore
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose gaudy plumage gave impressions of burlesque;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On neglected printouts pining there upon my cluttered desk,
A pitiful pile of ancient data damning me from on my desk,
Demanding writeup, Kafkaesque!

Then methought the air grew colder as I gazed upon the folder
Full of formulae and figures that confused me to the core.
"Wretch," I cried, "what colleague sent thee thus to mock me and torment me?
Theory, please let me invent thee -- grant me insight, I implore!
When will I analyze this data, know the purpose it was for?"
Quoth the Parrot, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! -- prophet still, if bird or devil! --
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, here where wiser minds are wanted --
Where intelligence is flaunted -- tell me truly, I implore --
What the hell's a Luttinger liquid? Tell me -- tell me, I implore!"
Quoth the Parrot, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil -- prophet still, if bird or devil!
By the ghost of Feynman -- by the intellect of Phil and Bill --
Tell this fading fake if ever, even if I lecture never
And my service duties sever, with a valiant act of will,
If I can understand my data, write it up and publish still."
Quoth the Parrot, "Never will."

"Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend," I shrieked, upstarting --
"Get thee back into the tempest and the soggy, soaking shore!
Leave no orange plume as token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my lethargy unbroken! -- quit my poster, out my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form out from my door!"
Quoth the Parrot, "Nevermore."

And the Parrot, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the phallic Feynman poster just above my desk and more;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the neon o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted . . . nevermore!

**************************************************************

Well, that sad ending kind of sucks. How about this alternate ending:

And the Parrot, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the phallic Feynman poster overlooking my workstation;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is scheming
My demise; but he is dreaming! I ignore his accusation,
Focusing on fishing, track and fiction now in combination
On my permanent vacation!

Things I Never Get Tired Of

The shape of a breast,
the touch of skin.
The tug of a fish,
a flashing fin.
The looming hurdle,
the mighty leap.
The joy of winning;
to fly in sleep.
The color of peaches,
the knowing of things.
The hunter's stalk,
a mallard's wings.
The taste of beauty,
the magic of math.
The thrill of taking
an unknown path.
The very first time
a program works.
The Physics community's
limitless quirks.

 

2009 or so?

That One Talent

"Death to hide?" Oh please, give me a break.
Nobody cares, or even should, if you
can make a poem of your worst mistake.
Go think of things more practical to do.

Your soul is bent indeed, like Narcissus,
to serve therewith your ego, nothing more.
If you could meet your Maker at the bus
you'd only try to beat Him to the door.

Your true account, if only you had heard,
is empty. There is nothing to present
beyond a tribute to the molded word
that knows (as you do not) the thought it meant.

And yet... and yet... the music of the spheres
rings in the voice of any well-turned phrase.
The power to move can overcome our fears
of suborning all that power to self-praise.

 
2014 or 2015

something

if on the odd occasion something stoops
to sweep aside your granite benchmark
boil your sleeping shadow's guts
and leave you with a burnt medallion

if this thing blinks
out of a shot-through animal eye

or if it wakes from tickled loins

or in the judgement of your ape

or in the nightmare of your child

whether it touch you like a tongue
or taste you like a knife

even if you understand

 

27 November 1976

Swallow Dog

I trip on the shadow of some black Other
fluttering
in the corner of my eye.
It is not unfriendly, it wished only to remind
to write what I have seen.
I saw in the same twilight
minutes ago, swallows
skimming the surface of a reedy pond.
They convinced me not to look directly
at reflections
of mountains and clouds, lest they appear apart.
I was a bit dazzled
with the full moon.
And a fat dog ran in the mud
panting and barking
chasing the swallows hopelessly
across the interface that belongs to them.
How like me, I thought,
and the swallow flew in the face of the moon
and in my face
at the same time
and the dog cheered.

 

Summer 1976

Coho

The call caught them
all across the Aleutians.

In the middle of scooping krill
they heard the sound of a wordless shiver
tickling skein and milt.

They eased to South.

They ate hard across the huge current
slashing herring ritualistically
in a dance of secret steps.

As each found far out
a tiny scent of home
the chemistry began in earnest
subtle at first
tasting of sweet death.

Then it was urgent, urgent
eating their flesh with the need to leap
to find the source, to change
utterly
into the mystery.

Spending what they had been
they came to the place
ready to slough their shredded husks
to feed the nursery.

Finally
shuddering off dying confinements
they came free together
thin smoke on the embers
round and newly sparked.

Huddled
in the spaces between the stones
they dream of the next return.

 

01 February 1976, revised 14 July 1976